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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

12 April 2002

Japanese Whale Meat No Delicacy


The latest scientific research has cast a disturbing light on the Japanese Whaling Association's push to encourage young people to eat more whale meat, according to the Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone.

"It is very surprising that the Japanese are encouraging the eating of whale meat with shoppers queuing for free samples of canned whale stew, deep-fried whale meat and blubber recipes in downtown Tokyo", Dr Stone said.

"Unfortunately, what these unsuspecting consumers probably received was a cocktail of toxins and contaminants that have made their way into our seas and oceans, particularly during the last 50 years".

"We now know from work done by Dr Roger Payne at the Whale Conservation Institute, who has been studying and documenting whales for the last 28 years, that chemicals have not only made their way into the sea but have made their way up the food chain and into the bodies of whales".

Dr Payne, who has led over 100 expeditions to all oceans and studied every species of whale in the world, has repeated that the highest concentration of EDC's (Endocrine Disrupting Compounds) ever found in any animal came recently from a minke whale, the species presented for free tasting to Tokyo lunchtime shoppers.

Unfortunately the chemical revolution of the last Century has produced synthetic contaminants not found in nature, to use in a range of pesticides, fertilisers and other products. These substances wash from the land into the sea. EDC's are highly toxic, chemically stable and long lived. They are also usually far more soluble in fats than water. Because animals and humans have not had to deal with these substances before, they tend to accumulate and store the substances in the body tissue, especially the fats.

Since EDC's are so long lived, every time an animal consumes a plant or another animal containing EDC's it accumulates the chemicals. The longer you live, the more you accumulate. Other mammals, like humans and whales, also pass the substances on to their foetus and to their infants as the babies drink the mother's milk.

Dr Payne has found that while the United States allows the sale of fish only if it contains less than 2 parts per million of PCB's (Polychlorinated Biphenyl), killer whales sampled mid-ocean have been found to have concentrations as high as 400 parts per million. The Beluga Whales of the Gulf of St Lawerence, he found, have concentration of PCB's as high as 3200 parts per million.

"In a paper delivered in Sydney last month, Dr Payne referred to the accumulating evidence that EDC's can inhibit foetal development, disturb reproductive organs, compromise immune systems and cause neural damage", Dr Stone said.

"Tragically, because air and water current disperse the EDC's polewards, polar people and animals have the highest accumulations. Whales caught in the Antarctic are not free of the threat of contamination"

"Whales have great difficulty in disposing of these toxins from their bodies - so where do these contaminants end up? In the whale meat being served at this very moment to Japanese consumers, of course!"

"Not only is this meat now highly contaminated, but it is clear from press reports of the whale meat giveaway that Japanese consumers do not believe they are missing out. Surveys consistently show that young Japanese consumers have not embraced whale meat and are disturbed by the methods used to kill whales", Dr Stone said.

"It is important that the Japanese Whaling Association informs whale meat consumers about the toxicity levels found in some meat and blubber of the product that they are trying to encourage their consumers to eat".

"This is a serious human health issue. At the same time they should also be concerned about the Japanese fleets killing of whales for 'research' in Antarctica, when non-lethal methods can deliver the same data that will help protect the species".

Contact:
Simon Frost 0419 495 468
Thursday April 11, 2002

Commonwealth of Australia