Green groups warn Japan of toxic dolphins

Japanese people are being poisoned by dolphin meat because the government will not issue a national health warning, a coalition of environmental organisations has stated.

Scientific evidence clearly shows that dolphin meat sold to the Japanese public contains high contamination levels of mercury, methylmercury, cadmium, DDT and PCBs, according to the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan (ENC), the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island institute (EII) and One Voice.

On the market in Japan, dolphin meat is also often mislabelled as being whale meat, which also tends to heavily contaminated with poisons. As the government has failed to take action, the environmental groups have issued a warning to consumers in Japan to avoid buying these two types of meat.

“Japanese people have long suffered from severe pollution and contamination,” said David Phillips, director of EII. “Dolphin and whale meat are seriously contaminated with poisons that can injure, sicken and even kill people, yet the government has taken no steps to protect its people from harm.”

In November last year, the ENC acquired a slice of meat from a freshly butchered bottlenose dolphin and sent it to a pharmaceutical research centre at the University of Hokkaido for testing.

Revealed to be highly polluted, the meat sample contained 19.2 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, which is 48 times higher than the maximum advisory level of 0.4ppm, set by the Japanese government.

International teams of scientists also analysed hundreds of whale and dolphin meat samples from Japan.

They reported to the International Whaling Commission that over 90% of the samples exceeded limits for one or more pollutants. One sample contained more than 1,600 times the allowed level for mercury, and the average mercury levels found in the samples were over five times higher than permitted.

“If the people of Japan knew the truth they would refuse to buy the poisoned meat of dolphins and whales that have been brutally slaughtered,” lead investigator for One Voice, Ric O’Barry commented. “But the government and the fishing industry keep this dangerous secret hidden from the public. It is time for the Japanese government to end the slaughter of dolphins and end the poisoning of its people.”

Mercury can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system in adults and can be particularly dangerous for young children and pregnant women.

By Jane Kettle

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