Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XIV No. 2 - April 2005
Contaminated Dolphin Meat In Japan
By William Rossiter
Sakae Fujiwara, of Japan's Elsa Nature Conservancy (ENC), graciously allowed CSI to share her report of the dolphin drives and slaughters at Futo and Taiji in January's Whales Alive!. Her heroic efforts continued nonstop, and we are honored to share her latest information and call for action. We hope you will feel moved to respond and that, because of Sakae's leadership and your concern, these travesties will stop. Public comment has made a difference. As we go to print Ric and Helene O'Barry of OneVoice are again at Taiji, and report that no killings have taken place while they have been there as witnesses.
Dolphin Meat from the Recent Drive Fishery in Futo was Highly Contaminated by Mercury
Elsa Nature Conservancy (ENC) acquired a sample of bottlenose dolphin meat from the drive fishery in Futo on November 11, 2004, and immediately sent it to Hokkaido, asking Dr. Tetsuya Endo at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Health Sciences University of Hokkaido to inspect mercury contamination. The meat was found to be highly contaminated with 19.2 ppm of mercury, 48 times higher than the maximum advisory level of 0.4 ppm, set by Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. It was also estimated to have between 6 and 7 ppm of methyl mercury, about 20 times higher than the maximum advisory level of 0.3 ppm. The Oceanographic Environmental Research Society (OERS) in February reported that mercury levels in the livers of marine mammals has not decreased despite four decades of regulations. Other studies recently linked mercury to autism, and the US government recently lowered allowable mercury emissions from power plants.
Contaminated dolphin meat.
Futo dolphin slaughters hidden inside a tent
In 2002 and 2003, ENC sent several packs of dolphin meat from Miyagi prefecture, which were sold in Ito City and in a town named Kawazu, southern part of Izu peninsula, Shizuoka prefecture, to the local governmental Inspecting Center of Public Health in Ibaraki Prefecture and Dr. Tetsuya Endo at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Health Sciences University of Hokkaido. The inspection by both the Inspection Center and Dr. Endo proved that all of the meat was contaminated by mercury, and especially one pack of dolphin meat showed as much as 5.69 ppm of mercury, which is 14.2 times higher than the maximum advisory level. That meat was from Miyagi, not from Ito/Futo drive fisheries, but the supermarkets in Ito city stopped selling dolphin meat for a considerable time in 2003.
The Inspecting Center of Public Health in Ibaraki Prefecture once advised that meat with mercury contamination exceeding the maximum advisory level of 0.4 ppm should be discarded, because eating poisoned dolphin meat is a serious health hazard, causing damage to the brain and nervous system, especially for young children and pregnant women.
Mercury contamination may not be limited to dolphins killed in Futo, Shizuoka, or Miyagi. Dolphins captured and killed in Taiji, Wakayama prefecture, also may be contaminated with mercury and other pollutants.
What you can do: Write a letter to the following supermarkets and officials, warning them that the contaminated dolphin meat harms the health of citizens and tourists.
Supermarkets in Ito and Kawazu where dolphin meat is sold:
- Nagaya Kamata Branch: 118-1 Minamicho 2chome, Ito-shi, Shizuoka-ken, 414-0035, Japan
- Aoki Kawazu Branch: 123 Kawazuhama, Kamogun, Shizuoka-ken, 413-0500, Japan
- NakamonSuisan: Ito Shopping Center 720-143 KusumiMotowada, Ito-shi, Shizuoka-ken, 414-0045, Japan
- NagahamaSuisan: Ito Shopping Center 720-143 KusumiMotowada, Ito-shi, Shizuoka-ken, 414-0045, Japan
Officials responsible for citizens' health:
- Mr. Toichiro Suzuki, Mayor of Ito, E-mail: email@example.com, Fax: +81-557-36-1104
- Ito-city "Kenkou-Suishin-ka" (Health-Promotion-Section in Ito City), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Taiji Sakurai, Mayor of Kawazu Town, E-mail: email@example.com, Fax: +81-558-34-0099
- Mr. Kazutaka Sangen, Town Mayor of Taiji, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +81-735-59-2801
- Mr. Yoshinobu Ishikawa, Governor of Shizuoka prefecture, E-mail:email@example.com, Fax: +81-54-221-2164
- Department of Food Safety, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, Fax: +81-3-3503-7965, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Yoshiki Kimura, Governor of Wakayama prefecture, E-mail: email@example.com, Fax: +81-73-423-9500. Governor Kimura gives the drive fishery permit.
If dolphins are contaminated, what about fish? CSI has no knowledge of tests on commercial fisheries products from the dolphin-killing areas, but we believe it is wrong to assume automatically that commercially harvested fish are also contaminated. The dolphins may have accumulated contaminants from different prey resources, in different areas, and there may be differences in how they metabolized whatever contaminants they consumed. However, one reason dolphins have been slaughtered is the presumption that they compete for prey with commercial fish, effectively impacting the fisheries catch and lowering profits from the sale of fish. This silly argument has come back to bite the fishermen.
But there is obvious fear that, as a result of the news of the contaminated dolphin meat, consumer confidence in fish products may collapse. Although the three biggest newspapers in Japan, the Asahi, the Yomiuri, and the Mainichi, reported the contamination news in their local editions, the local newspapers the Izu and the Shizuoka refused to carry it, apparently for fear that readers would cancel their subscription if the contamination was reported locally.
The Futo Fishing Cooperative may see the issue as one of their survival, which has dire implications for their future actions. So far they only want to know how the dolphin meat samples were obtained, and to prevent inspections for mercury in the next hunting season. This brings back memories of the national government's effort to solve the issue of mislabeled or contaminated whale meat by trying to shut down any testing. The effort to hide the truth may have caused a previous advocate with close ties to the commercial fishing industry to now openly accuse ENC of revealing the mercury contamination. Responding to media questions with a typical damage control effort, the Cooperative told the media the dolphin meat was distributed only among the fishermen who hunted dolphins. Given the contamination risk how can any more dolphin meat be legally given for human consumption, and what new arguments will the dolphin hunters create to keep their grisly business alive?
But the Japanese public is increasingly aware of toxins in whale meat, the market may be doomed, and Japan is using contamination concerns to stop some whale meat imports. Will consumer confidence finally bring down Japan's slaughter of whales and dolphins?
Captive display support for the dolphin slaughters is highlighted by current plans to sell eight survivors of previous Taiji dolphin slaughters for display at Talien, China, if an export permit is approved by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Currently being conditioned at the Taiji Whale Museum, the four female and four male bottlenose dolphins are being brokered by dealers in New Zealand as an "international academic/scientific exchange", for approximately US$4-5,000 apiece. This is the first known sale of cetaceans by the Taiji Whale Museum, which previously loaned an orca to the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. The sale is controversial in part because the public museum's commercial trade is likely to be against the laws of the Museum & Social Education, and is a bad influence on museums nationwide. Last fall a dolphin captured at Futo was sold for between US$3,800 and US$4,000.
The connection between the display industry and the dolphin drives was the reason for a demonstration at the 33rd annual symposium of the European Association of Aquatic Mammals (EAAM) in March. Organized by Een Dier Een Vriend (EDEV) of the Netherlands, it was coordinated with a coalition of organizations fighting the dolphin drives, One Voice of France, Earth Island Institute of the United States and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan. Demonstrators made certain that symposium delegates were aware that the dolphin captivity industry fuels the dolphin slaughter by rewarding Japanese dolphin hunters with thousands of dollars in exchange for dolphins that can be used in dolphin shows and dolphin swim programs. Most display facilities refuse to be seen as criticizing their peers in Asia, where many Japanese dolphins end up. Others deny direct links to Japanese sources for dolphins, as did the Harderwijk dolphinarium in March. But official documents showed that they had, albeit 30 years ago, and the Dutch media pounced on the revelation. Why won't the industry act to stop the slaughters that reflect so poorly on them?
Dolphin meat in sausages and burgers may not appeal to you, but to Egypt's Meat and Fish Research Department at the Food Technology Research Institute it may help make up for diets deficient in animal protein. How the meat will be acquired is unknown, but hopefully the idea will die before any dolphins do.