Japan's Refusal To Eat Toxic Whale Meat Could Save Whale Populations

In a segment on Public Radio International’s Living on Earth program recently, the subject of toxicants in whale meat leading to Japan’s refusal to import Norwegian meat came up. Peter Dykstra of EHN and Daily Climate was quoted in the story:

Recently, two groups, the Environmental Investigation Agency and the Animal Welfare Institute, uncovered documents showing that Japan rejected imports of whale meat from Norway due to pesticide contamination — chemicals linked to birth defects and cancer like aldrin, dieldrin, and chlordane.

While the Save The Whale movement has been one of the most successful environmental campaigns over the last thirty years, due to the diversity of threats – new and existing – and a stubbornness by certain countries to change their habits, many people consider that whales now face more threats than ever before.
Millions of dollars have been spent on campaigns to try to stop the Japanese from commercial whaling. While it is a cultural issue for the Japanese, it is still taking a huge toll on whale and dolphin populations. For the last 25 years, Ocean Alliance has been worried about the slow, ubiquitous bioconcentration of environmental toxicants in whales and the devastating effect this can have on mammalian health.
A tragic upside of this that Ocean Alliance has been exploring over the last decade is the fact that this means that whale meat is too toxic to eat. This work has been reinforced by Japan’s refusal to import Norwegian whale meat. In Japan, it was status symbol, but now, it has lost its cachet.
Often in science, we have to give proof before we can lobby for changes in society’s behavior. But in the case of human consumption of whale meat, our CEO Iain Kerr finds real irony in the fact that whales could be saved because we’ve poisoned them as to be unfit to eat.
Ocean Alliance has spent years gathering this data – for instance, we provided the data for the movie The Cove – and we will continue collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data on toxicants in whales – and perhaps that, ultimately, that can save them.

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