Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | October 13, 2011

The Dangers of Dolphin Meat

Imagine you are in a grocery store. You are browsing through the meat section. You look at something that you think is fish, however it is labeled as whale meat. This may no be common in American grocery stores, however in some Asian countries this is not an odd find. Nevertheless, although the package reads whale meat, there is a pretty good chance that it is actually dolphin meat.

Whale Meat Located at a Grocery Store in Japan

I do not think that many of you would buy whale meat, but if you were curious about what it might taste like first think of what it could do to your body’s health.

According to

Much of dolphin meat sold around Japan is actually mislabeled or sold as counterfeit whale meat from a larger whale, which sells for far more money than dolphin meat. Hundreds of samples of dolphin meat tested from around Japan has all been shown to be toxic and far exceeds their own ministry of health recommendations. Some internal organ meat for sale at the Okura markets near Taiji was analyzed to have 5000 times more mercury than the health advisory of 0.4 ppm.

Dolphin meat is full of mercury with is toxic to humans. And when consumed it can cause some serious health issues, especially to a women who is pregnant. Mercury poisoning can cause some serious birth defects. According to,

Mercury in the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change it into methylmercury a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish.

Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans. Methylmercury builds up more in some types of fish and shellfish than others. The levels of methylmercury in fish and shellfish depend on what they eat, how long they live and how high they are in the food chain.

EPA works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and with states and tribes to issue advice to women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing women, and parents of young children about how often they should eat certain types of commercially-caught fish and shellfish.

Fish advisories are also issued for men, women, and children of all ages when appropriate. In addition, EPA releases an annual summary of information on locally-issued fish advisories and safe-eating guidelines to the public. Fish is a beneficial part of the diet, so EPA & FDA encourage people to continue to eat fish that are low in methylmercury.

Health effects of mercury. Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. Research shows that most people’s fish consumption does not cause a health concern. However, it has been demonstrated that high levels of methylmercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, making the child less able to think and learn.

Mercury is not something you want to be ingesting. However, in Japan, the Japanese government was feeding this toxic dolphin meat to the children in the schools. This was an issue discussed in The Cove.

Mercury in a Solid State

In an article posted by the New York Times on their website, the author, Martin Fackler, also discussed the harm of mercury within dolphin meat,

Dolphin meat is a prized local delicacy, served raw as sashimi or boiled with soy sauce. But in June, laboratory tests showed high levels of mercury in dolphin and pilot whale, a small whale that resembles a dolphin, caught and sold here. At the urging of two town council members, schools promised to stop serving pilot whale for lunch, and some local supermarkets removed it and dolphin from their shelves.

One of these Taiji, Japan City Councilman is Junichiro Yamashita. Once he discovered of the high toxic levels of mercury being served in the school lunches through dolphin meat he called it “toxic waste” and we have him to thank for the removal of dolphin meat in school lunches.

Taiji City Councilman Junichiro Yamashita

You may be wondering why the schools are serving dolphin meat in the first place. Well, as it was reported in The Cove, dolphin meat, when labeled as dolphin meat, is very cheap. In addition to how cheap it is the fishermen were giving the government a good deal on it. Luckily Taiji has people like Junichiro Yamashita to help stop the mercury poisoning from spreading.

At the University of Hokkaido located in Japan, Professor Tetsuya Endo, a professor of Health Sciences at the university has been doing research on the high levels of mercury being consumed by the public. Endo found that dolphin and whale meat is not only high in mercury but he has also discovered that residents of Taiji who eat the meat that is sold in the local markets have extremely high mercury concentrations in their bodies. In an interview with the Japan Times Endo stated,

Between December 2007 and July 2008, myself and a team of scientists and researchers took hair samples from 30 male and 20 female residents of the Taiji area. In three cases, the levels of mercury present were more than 50 parts per million, high enough that it was possible nerve damage, like that seen in victims of Minamata disease, could occur.

For those of you who have not seen The Cove, or know what Minamata’s disease is I will tell you. It was discovered in 1956, in Minamata City located in Japan, and again in Niigata City in 1965, which is also in Japan. This disease occurred do to the high levels of methylmercury (mercury) being consumed.

It started with the Chisso Corporation opening a chemical factory in Minamata in 1908. This chemical factory omitted waste mercury into the ocean, which the fish, dolphins, and whales ate which were then caught and consumed by humans. To see the effects of Minamata’s disease first hand watch the video below.

We need to stop this before it happens again. As reported by the Earth Island Institute, Japanese scientists who have been doing research on mercury poisonings have discovered that Taiji residents have ten times the amount of mercury levels in there body than average Japanese citizens.

At the rate the citizens of Taiji, the fishing village where the “cove” is located, are consuming dolphin meat and seafood with such high levels of mercury they could easily be the next Japanese village to be struck with Minamata’s disease. This is a disease that can be prevented is the consumption of dolphin meat discontinues as well.

Dolphins being slaughtered in Taiji

A win-win solution for the people of Taiji and the activists who want the dolphin slaughtering to stop, would be to just stop killing and capturing dolphins. If the killing stops, then the meat does not get mislabeled and eaten mistakenly. And if the meat is never consumed, then the people of Taiji are not consuming toxic levels of mercury. Therefore, stopping the possibility of Minamata’s disease before it can make itself present. In addition, if the killing stops the activists will be happy that the dolphins are free and safe in the wild. This sounds like a perfect solution to me.

However, as we know in the real world things have to be much more complicated than they seem. In the meantime I am going to end with an informative video on mercury poisoning that was posted on



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