Faroe Island Whaling Up Despite Health Warnings
By Ric and Helene O’Barry
The Taiji of the North Atlantic – the annual kill of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands – has substantially increased despite a warning from health authorities that the meat is contaminated with toxic mercury.
In 2008, the Faroe Island’s chief physician, Dr. Pál Weihe, and chief medical officer, Dr. Høgni Debes Joensen, strongly recommended that pilot whale meat should no longer be used for human consumption because of the significant threat it poses to health.
Yet, this year the number of pilot whales killed in the bloody drive fisheries exceeds 1,115, and the year is not yet over. This is the largest number of pilot whales killed since 1996, likely spurred by the Faroe islander’s legendary contempt for outsiders who oppose the pilot whale hunts.
Pregnant women and children are particularly susceptible to mercury poisoning, which can result in severe neurological and brain damage. The meat also harbors high levels of organochlorines, which are also toxic.
(These hunts are still dwarfed by the dolphin slaughters in Japan. The Japan Fisheries Agency issues 23,000 permits annually to local communities like Taiji to kill dolphins.)
The Faroe Islands are a semi-autonomous region of Denmark situated 200 miles north of Scotland. They therefore claim to be able to operate outside of European Union norms for health and animal welfare.
Environmental organizations, including the Dolphin Project have opposed these cruel hunts for years.
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Ric O’Barry, Dolphin Project Founder & Director has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.
In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.
From that moment on, O’Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.
Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.
O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.
His book Behind the Dolphin Smile was published in 1989; a second book, To Free A Dolphin was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication. He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.
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