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Archive for February, 2010
WHO and FAO discuss health risks to consumers of whale, dolphin and porpoise meat for the first time – Japan is one of the most affected countriesTuesday, February 2nd, 2010
Press Release: 27th January 2010
Geneva/Tokyo: This week the World Health Organisation WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are holding an expert consultation on the risks of fish consumption and – encouraged by a coalition of environmental groups – for the first time the health risks associated with consuming contaminated meat and blubber from whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans).
Within the last decade numerous scientific findings have been published, clearly showing extremely high levels of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other toxic substances in cetacean products on sale for human consumption. During this period scientists have also found a strong correlation between the consumption of cetacean meat with a variety of human diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, arteriosclerosis, immune subsystem suppression, and hypertension. Threats to children include autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
In Japan, up to 20,000 toothed cetaceans in addition to over 1,000 large baleen whales are annually hunted and consumed. Toothed cetaceans mainly feed at the top of a complex marine food web and therefore may accumulate particularly high levels of toxic substances. It has also been found however that minke whales, a filter feeding species which typically feeds lower down the food chain, can also carry PCB and mercury levels above Japan’s own safety limits.
“Despite the overwhelming scientific findings that cetacean products can pose a risk to human health they remain on sale throughout Japan and are even distributed to some Japanese schools as part of the obligatory school lunch programme” states Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency and coordinator of an international coalition of groups concerned about cetacean hunting and related health risks.
Sakae Hemmi of the Japan based NGO Elsa Nature Conservancy said: “It is time for our government to stop the sale of cetacean products and properly inform consumers about these health risks. So far up to 90 percent of the Japanese citizens are not aware of these risks.”
Only recently Japanese scientists published new findings that show mercury levels in citizens of the Japanese whaling town Taiji up to 25 times higher than Japan’s average. In November a joint letter by Japanese consumer and food safety groups and international conservation organisations called on Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Minister of Consumer Affairs and Food Safety to prohibit the sale of polluted cetacean products.
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For further information or images, contact:
Sakae Hemmi, ELSA Nature Conservancy, Japan
firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +81-29-851-1637
Clare Perry, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
email@example.com Tel: +34 971510046 / +34 664348821
Dr. Sandra Altherr, Pro Wildlife
Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +49 89 81299-507
Sigrid Lueber, President OceanCare,
email@example.com Tel: +41 79 475 2687
Dr. Birgith Sloth, Society for the Conservation of Marine Mammals
Beeco11@yahoo.dk , Tel: +45 20890439
Andy Ottaway, Campaign Whale
firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 1273 471403
Sue Fisher, Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society
email@example.com, +1 508 746-2522
Evidence of the contamination of toothed whale, dolphin and porpoise products in Japan is widely available, including the following publications:
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.
Endo, T., Hotta, Y., Haraguchi, K., and Sakata, M. 2003. Mercury Contamination in the Red Meat of Whales and Dolphins Marketed for Human Consumption in Japan. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2003, 37 (12), pp 2681–2685. Available at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es034055n
Poisonous Policies – Japan’s failure to stop the sale of polluted whale, dolphin and porpoise products. Available in Japanese and English at http://www.eia-international.org/campaigns/species/cetaceans/reports/
Toxic Menu – Contamination of whale meat and impact on consumers’ health. Available at www.prowildlife.de/sites/default/files/toxic menue_lowres.pdf
Mercury Contamination is Threatening Our Dining Table – An Investigative Report. Available in English and Japanese, www.elsaenc.net/
Link to AERA magazine article (subscription): http://www.aera-net.jp/latest/backdetail.html?id=111
Link to open letter (English): http://www.eia-international.org/files/reports187-1.pdf
Link to the open letter (Japanese): http://www.eia-international.org/files/reports188-1.pdf