Sale of Mercury-Laden Dolphin Meat Continues Despite Dangers

Even as far back as 2007, Taiji’s elected officials admitted they “…had found extremely high mercury and methylmercury levels in samples of meat from pilot whales killed inshore by Taiji hunters…”*

*Source: The Japan Times: Taiji officials: Dolphin meat ‘toxic waste,’ August 1, 2007.

Last week marked the first drive of pilot whales into the cove, where they met a prolonged and violent death. From there, they were packaged up, with the tainted meat driven to supermarkets in Wakayama Prefecture.

The products will be sold as “gondo” or whale meat, and displayed in a separate case alongside minke whale products, away from dolphin meat. The public will be intentionally misled, thinking they are eating whales, and not dolphins.

Despite being fraudulently marketed, the irony is that all meat, dolphin and whale, is contaminated. In fact, pilot whales have tested to contain the highest levels of mercury.” ~ Ric O’Barry

Dolphin Project has been buying and testing gondo meat for 13 years, and never once did we find a package that was not contaminated with high levels of mercury and other toxins. We have been working with the Japan Times, notably, with writer Boyd Harnell, in order to get the information out to the Japanese people. Like any other product, gondo meat is based on supply and demand. If the Japanese people learn the truth about these contaminated products, they will stop buying them. Ultimately, our work is about reaching the Japanese consumers.

The health ministry has been aware of the mercury problem in small cetaceans (not to mention in the meat from great whales) for many years, but so far it has refused to ban the sale of such food products.*

*Source: The Japan Times: Taiji officials: Dolphin meat ‘toxic waste,’ August 1, 2007.

Read the rest of the article, written by two-time Genesis Award winner Boyd Harnell. Even though it’s dated, the material contained is accurate and relevant. More recent is an article written by Rob Gilhooly, also published in the Japan Times, where an admission from fisheries cooperative official Yoshifumi Kai, acknowledges that tests on locals have yielded high mercury levels. You can read our analysis here.

Dolphin Project will continue to purchase and test meat from dolphins killed in Taiji throughout the 2015/16 season.

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About Ric O'Barry

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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$.

Author: Ric O'Barry


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