2 Apr 2014

Muttonbirder confident titi safe to eat

10:17 am on 2 April 2014

A Ngai Tahu muttonbirder is confident all the titi they harvest are safe to eat - even though a scientist wants to test feathers for radiation.

Sooty shearwaters.

Sooty shearwaters. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Auckland University's David Kroftcheck said the sooty shearwater birds, which spend their winter off the coast of Japan, could have been affected by fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan which was damaged by a deadly tsunami in 2011.

He had been trying to contact Ngai Tahu Rakiura muttonbirders to arrange a visit to Stewart Island to test feathers for contamination, and see if radiation had entered the food chain.

However, the levels would be minute, even if titi had been exposed to radiation, and there was no danger those who caught or ate them, he said.

As well, preliminary tests conducted last year by Te Papa and Landcare Research confirmed the birds were safe to eat.

Te Runanga o Waihopai upoko [head] Michael Skerrett agreed with the preliminary results and said people had nothing to worry about. The birds flew for nine days to reach New Zealand, he said, and the chances of them carrying radiation for that long were small.

The Ngai Tahu elder said not all of the sooty shearwater birds spend time off the coast of Japan, with some also visiting Siberia, Alaska and California before flying back to Foveaux Strait.

It was unlikely that Dr Kroftcheck would get the chance to visit and work with any Rakiura muttonbirders as they were currently isolated and out of range, and they would be satisfied with the tests were conducted last year, Mr Skerrett said.

Dr Kroftcheck said his research was important and muttonbirders could contact him at Auckland University.