Friday, January 22, 2010

Japanese Scientist Reveals Study Showing That Taiji Residents have 10 Times Higher Mercury Levels Than Average Japanese Citizens

Japanese Scientist Reveals Study Showing That Taiji Residents have 10 Times Higher Mercury Levels Than Average Japanese Citizens.

University of Hokkaido Professor Tetsuya Endo expresses alarm at the high levels of contamination among residents of Taiji, site of the killing of dolphins featured in “The Cove”. Dr. Endo is calling for “efforts to curb consumption of whale meat which is highly contaminated with mercury.”

Message From Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins

The dirty secret of the largest slaughter of dolphins on Earth is that the dolphin meat being sold to an unsuspecting public in Japan is poisoned by mercury contamination.

We have brought this to public attention since we began our campaign four years ago. More recently our testing of dolphin meat and the mercury contamination issue (including the Japan government’s cover-up with a compliant media) is receiving global attention in the award-winning documentary “The Cove.”

In Taiji, Japan, the little town that slaughters a thousand dolphins a year and sells the meat in markets around Japan, one brave town council member, Mr. Yamashita, objected to the inclusion of mercury-laden dolphin meat in the town’s school lunch program, a PR gimmick by the dolphin-killers to get another young generation hooked on poisoned dolphin meat. Taiji dropped the school lunches, but unfortunately Mr. Yamashita has been shunned and left Taiji.

However, one of his legacies was a decision by the town council to test the mercury levels in Japanese citizens in Taiji. The results have been held up for months, but now enterprising reporters in Japan are bringing out the story.

The Japan-wide news service, Kyodo News, just published this story, picked up here by The Japan Times, which has been bravely printing the story of the dolphin slaughter and our Coalition work for several years.

The story states that Taiji residents, who eat dolphin meat, are showing mercury levels ten times higher than average Japanese.

The Japan media is finally getting out the story of mercury contamination in dolphin meat. As more stories appear, more reporters and editors will feel safe in investigating further.

Mercury-laden dolphin meat is a crisis that should bring an end to the dolphin slaughter in Japan, and not just in Taiji, but all across Japan.

We still have a long way to go to get this story out to the Japanese public and help organize the protest to their government to end the cover-up and the sale of dolphin meat.

I believe we are getting closer! And we will not stop until the dolphin slaughter ends, period.

Ric O’Barry

Here’s how you can help immediately:

  1. Join our Call to Action to Ban the sale of dolphin meat immediately!
    Take action at:
  2. Help us with a donation to get the word out in Japan. When the Japanese public sees The Cove, and realizes that the dolphin meat is poison, the killing will end. Click here to Donate
  3. Go to where you can sign up to be informed of the latest updates.
  4. Read the full text of the Mercury Poisoning story at:

Mercury levels of whale-eating town's residents 10 times average
Friday 22nd January, 06:40 AM JST

Levels of mercury in hair samples of residents of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, which is known for customarily eating small whales caught by coastal whaling, are about 10 times the average in Japan, possibly due to consumption of whale meat with high concentration of mercury, one of researchers who conducted the survey said Thursday.

Hair samples were collected from 30 men and 20 women living in the whaling town with a population of about 3,400 through local collaborators between December 2007 and July 2008 for testing, Tetsuya Endo, an associate professor at Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, said.

The survey showed the average total mercury levels in the men’s and women’s hair samples were 21.6 parts per million and 11.9 ppm, respectively, while the levels of average Japanese men and women are 2.55 ppm and 1.43 ppm, he said.

The highest concentration level discovered in the survey was 67.2 ppm in a male aged in his 50s, as a total of three people exceeded the level of 50 ppm for no observed adverse effect set by the World Health Organization, Endo said.

Endo expressed alarm that contamination levels among some of the residents appeared to be high enough to develop health problems according to oversea standards.

‘‘It’s necessary to conduct more detailed research on their health conditions and the current status of contamination,’’ he said. ‘‘We should also make efforts to curb consumption of whale meat which is highly contaminated with mercury.’‘

The researchers, also including Koichi Haraguchi at Daiichi College of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Fukuoka, will publish the survey result in an international science magazine on oceanic pollution.

According to Endo, the researchers also discovered high levels of mercury in products made from local marine mammals and fishes, such as pilot whales, dolphins, tunas and skipjack, distributed in and around the community.

In particular, the total contamination levels in the red meat from 22 samples of pilot whales, a cetacean commonly consumed in the town, averaged 9.6 ppm, with the level for methyl mercury alone coming to 5.9 ppm, both well beyond the tentative national regulation figures of 0.4 ppm and 0.3 ppm, respectively.

Among the 50 residents tested, the average total mercury level in those who eat pilot whale once a month or more was 24.6 ppm, while the levels in those who eat it only once every several months or not at all were 15.5 ppm and 4.3 ppm, respectively.

No epidemiologic survey has been conducted in Taiji although health hazards to the residents from the consumption of whale products are suspected, according to Endo.

© 2010 Kyodo News. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What is happening in Taiji now?

By Helene O’Barry

Since the showing of the documentary The Cove, which exposes the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, many rumors have swirled around one question: Did The Cove stop the killing of dolphins in Taiji? Some media outlets have publicized statements that would lead the public to believe that dolphins are no longer being hunted there. Sadly, this is not the case. The killing of many dolphins, including bottlenose dolphins, still continues in Taiji. The policy of no killing of bottlenose dolphins apparently did not last long and was most likely nothing but a strategic short-term publicity stunt, aimed at reassuring the international media that bottlenose dolphins would no longer be killed. Bottlenose dolphins are being hunted and killed in Taiji again, along with many other species of dolphin.

It is important to remember that this is the world’s largest dolphin slaughter. Japan issues 23,000 permits annually to fishermen around its shores; in Taiji alone, 1,500 or more dolphins are slaughtered every year. It has been going on for more than 400 years, although the drive fishery has only gone on for the past 70 years or so, and of course the capturing of dolphins for aquariums and swim-with-dolphins programs is a modern, very lucrative addition.

It is not realistic to think that we, or anyone else, can shut it down before this year’s hunting season ends in March 2010. In order to once and for all stop the dolphin slaughter in Japan, The Cove must be viewed by the Japanese people. So far, it has not been. There are 126 million people in Japan. Less than 300 of them have seen the documentary so far. The work, therefore, is now about launching an effort within Japan to ensure that as many Japanese people as possible see The Cove.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition is leading that effort, and we are currently finishing up the Japanese translations for The Cove and making copies to distribute around the country, particularly to decision-makers in Tokyo. Additionally, our Coalition will be screening copies around the major cities shortly. We are getting e-mails from people in Japan eager to help us spread the word.

Your donations help our efforts. We want to thank you for all your support. Help us reach those 126 million people in Japan by donating today:

Working together with our friends in Japan and from all around the world, we can stop the killing. We are already seeing stories in the Japanese media that would never have appeared without our Save Japan Dolphins Campaign. The Japan Times, for example, recently printed a story listing ten important human rights issues in Japan — the Japan dolphin slaughter was number 9! Go to:

We don’t know how long this campaign is going to take, but we are in it to win protection for all the dolphins and whales. You can count on that.

Save Japan Dolphins Coalition:
Earth Island Institute, Animal Welfare Institute, Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, In Defense of Animals, Campaign Whale of the UK, and OceanCare of Switzerland