Japanese scientists have published new findings that show mercury levels in citizens of the notorious dolphin-hunting town of Taiji up to ten times higher than in the rest of the country*. Taiji is the town made infamous by the multi-award winning documentary The Cove. The film features former ‘flipper ‘ trainer Ric O’Barry and the Save Japan Dolphin Coalition’s (SJDC) campaign to stop the slaughter of up to 20,000 dolphins each year by Japanese fishermen by exposing the high levels of toxic pollutants such as mercury in the meat. Campaign Whale is the only UK member of the SJDC, working with Ric O’Barry to end the cruel slaughter of dolphins in Japan.
Last November, a joint letter signed by Japanese consumer and food safety groups and international anti-whaling organisations, including Campaign Whale, called on Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Minister of Consumer Affairs and Food Safety to ban the sale of toxic whale and dolphin meat.
In January this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) held a meeting of experts to discuss the considerable health risks from eating fish and other seafood that is increasingly contaminated by toxic pollutants such as mercury. Thanks to the work of a coalition of organisations, including Campaign Whale, the risk of eating contaminated meat and blubber from whales, dolphins and porpoises was also discussed at this meeting for the first time.
Many scientific studies have now revealed extremely high levels of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other toxic substances in whale and dolphin products on sale for human consumption in Japan. Scientists have also found strong links between eating whale and dolphin meat and a number of human diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, arteriosclerosis, immune subsystem suppression, and hypertension. In children, that are served this meat in school lunches, these threats include autism, Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Up to 20,000 smaller whales, dolphins and porpoises are slaughtered in Japan each year along with over 1,200 large baleen whales also cruelly harpooned and killed. Unlike baleen whales such as minke whales, toothed cetaceans such as pilot whales, dolphins and porpoises feed at the top of the marine food chain and so accumulate very high levels of toxic substances in their bodies. However, even minkes can carry PCB and mercury levels above public safety limits set by the Japanese Government and world health authorities.
*Endo, T. and Haraguchi, K. 2010. High mercury levels in hair samples from residents of Taiji, a Japanese whaling town. Marine Pollution Bulletin in press
The Cove to be screened in Japan
At last a deal to distribute The Cove in Japan has finally been agreed giving the Japanese public an opportunity to see a film that exposes the secret slaughter of dolphins and the public health threat from eating polluted whale and dolphin meat.
Campaign Whale Director Andy Ottaway says ‘At long, long last the Japanese public will have the chance to see this secret slaughter for the first time and learn what a tragedy it is both for animals and people. They will be horrified. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for these appalling hunts.
The Cove nominated for Oscars
News is just in that The Cove has just been nominated for an academy award at next month’s Oscars in the US on March 7th. The Oscars are watched by a global audience of one billion people, so this is truly a huge opportunity to draw worldwide attention, including in Japan, to the film and the issues it raises.