Additional test results include 95.7 ppm mercury and 1.9 ppm methylmercury in Risso’s dolphin offal (239 times the limit of total mercury), and 6.40 ppm mercury and 2.2 ppm methylmercury in melon-headed whale meat (16 times the limit of total mercury).

Action for Dolphins conducted these tests as part of our campaign to end the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. The meat was purchased from the Taiji Fisheries Association website last month and is available throughout Japan.

Action for Dolphins’s CEO, Hannah Tait, says, “We have conducted multiple mercury tests in Japan since 2020, but these are the highest mercury results we have ever seen. Especially if consumed frequently, this meat poses a serious threat to human health and should be removed from sale.”

In August 2021 Action for Dolphins filed a criminal complaint against the Taiji Fisheries Association for selling dolphin meat with mercury levels above the regulatory limit. Following a police investigation, the Wakayama Prosecutor’s office decided not to indict the Taiji Fisheries Association. In August this year Action for Dolphins appealed this decision. 

This month, the appeal committee upheld the original decision, claiming the mercury guidelines do not apply to cetaceans.

Kyoko Yoshida, the lead attorney on the appeal from the Law Office of Takano Takashi, says, “I believe this judgment is ridiculous. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is aware of the danger of mercury in whale meat, so they warn pregnant women to avoid consuming large amounts of whale meat.”.

Hannah Tait says, “The rationale for this decision is inconsistent with the Ministry’s own guidelines. Surveys and research conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan states the skin and internal organs of toothed whales are particularly contaminated and require guidance before being eaten.”

In its guidelines Japan’s Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor advises that fish and seafood with levels exceeding 0.4 ppm for total mercury and 0.3 ppm for methylmercury are unsafe for human consumption.

For decades, researchers in Japan have highlighted the risks of consuming red meat from cetaceans (whales and dolphins), warning it could pose health problems for not only pregnant women but for the general population and lead to chronic health impacts.

The last week has been brutal for dolphins swimming past Taiji. On the 27th of October a pod of Risso’s dolphins were slaughtered in the Taiji killed cove and on the 29th of October a pod of melon-headed whales were killed. On the 1st of November, 9 adults and 6 calves was driven into the cove. All 9 adults were slaughtered, while the calves were carried out to sea, with little chance of survival. 

Action for Dolphins continues its mission to bring an end to the devastating dolphin hunts in Taiji, Japan, as well as the cycle of dolphins suffering in captivity.