Whale of a Problem

a new study has revealed that whale and dolphin products are contaminated with high levels of mercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (pcbs). The study, which was conducted by a group of researchers from Harvard University in the us and the University of Greenwich in the uk, claims that prolonged consumption of whale meat may result in health problems. This is the first time a study has dwelt on the contamination of whale meat for public consumption, say the researchers.

The researchers randomly selected and examined whale meat sold at fish markets and supermarkets in Tokyo. They analysed 61 samples, including whale products such as red meat, fatty cuts and processed foods, to examine possible levels of mercury, pcbs and organic chlorinated compounds. The species and living environments of the whales were identified through dna tests. Seventeen of 20 samples, or around 85 per cent, identified as having been processed from smaller whales, such as toothed whales and dolphins living in Japanese waters, were found to have higher mercury levels than the provisional standard of 0.4 microgrammes per gramme of meat. Mercury levels detected in some samples of stewed dolphin livers were 500 times more than that of standard levels.

Small whale species contained a maximum of 8.9 microgrammes of pcbs, about 18 times more than the provisional standard of 0.5 microgrammes. Half of all samples taken from minke whales and small whale species in the northern hemisphere were discovered to contain levels of pcbs higher than the provisional standard. This indicates that the contamination of whale meat is widespread. Small whale species were found to contain a maximum of 209 picogrammes of highly toxic dioxin, coplanar pcbs, which is more than 100 times the amount found in seafood.