| October 27, 2009 at 09:38 am
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‘THE COVE’ DOCUMENTARY OF JAPAN’S COASTAL DOLPHIN AND WHALE HUNTS AIRS IN JAPAN
The Environmental Investigation Agency today released a detailed report in Japanese documenting polluted whale and dolphin products on sale in Japan. Release of the report, entitled ‘Poisonous Policies’, coincides with the first Japanese screening of the Cove, an internationally acclaimed documentary about the dolphin drive hunts in Taiji, Japan.
DNA and chemical analyses of 67 whale, dolphin and porpoise (cetacean) products by independent scientists contracted by the EIA found that 52 per cent exceeded the Japanese Government’s regulatory limits for either mercury, methylmercury or PCBs. Laboratory testing of one whale meat sample discovered mercury levels 17 times higher than safe regulatory limits and presence of methylmercury 12 times higher than the limit. DNA analysis of the EIA samples showed that more than a quarter of products were not labelled with the correct species name.
Such pollutants can have serious adverse effects upon the human central nervous system, cause kidney, liver and brain damage, increase infertility and risk of heart disease and Parkinson’s disease and in severe cases, be fatal.
Tests by Dr. Tetsuya Endo of the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido have shown high levels of mercury in Taiji residents. Hair samples showed average mercury levels around ten times higher than the national average. According to Endo, three subjects had high enough levels to cause nerve damage, “like that seen in victims of Minamata disease”.
The Cove has opened up the debate in Japan regarding its coastal whale, dolphin and porpoise hunts, which take around 20,000 animals per year in relative secrecy. The hunts include the hand-harpoon hunt of around 15,000 Dall’s porpoises each year, the largest cetacean hunt in the world.
The film has already had an effect on the hunt, with officials recently releasing 70 bottlenose dolphins after a number were selected for captivity. Fifty pilot whales were not so fortunate and were slaughtered for their meat.
EIA is urging the Japanese government to phase out all coastal whale, dolphin and porpoise hunts.
Clare Perry, EIA’s Senior Cetacean Campaigner said: “All of the coastal cetacean products we tested exceeded the government’s own recommended levels – yet none were labelled with warnings to consumers about the dangerously high levels of mercury they contained.
“It is not enough to just stop killing dolphins, the Government of Japan needs to end all the small cetacean hunts, particularly the large-scale hand harpoon hunt of Dall’s porpoises in northern Japan, which kills around 15,000 animals each year.”
“Legislation has existed in Japan for more than 30 years which calls for the removal of seafood products with far lower mercury levels than those found in our survey. These products put people at real risk and should not be on the supermarket shelves.”
EIA also says Japan’s coastal cetacean hunting industry should be given compensation for the loss of their livelihoods.
‘Poisonous Policies’ the report on the findings is available in English and Japanese.
The Cove is showing in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Tokyo, on September 25th.
Pilot whale meat is commonly found on sale in Taiji and in other parts of southern Japan. Hair samples of Japanese people who said they eat pilot whale more than once a month had an average mercury level of 25.6ppm, while those who ate just once every few months had an average level of 15.5ppm. National average levels are around 2.55ppm for men and 1.43ppm for women (source: Japan Times: Mercury danger in dolphin meat. 23 September 2009)
Taiji City Councilman Junichiro Yamashita, distributed newsletters to Taiji residents warning them to avoid consuming toxic dolphin meat after their test results revealed mercury and methylmercury levels 30 and 16 times higher than the regulatory levels set by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is the world's leading organisation dedicated to exposing crimes against wildlife and the environment.