Toxins taint Norway's whale meat

Karine Toreid Knudsen hknuds at online.no
Fri Jul 28 22:24:07 EST 2000




Toxins taint Norway's whale meat
Wednesday, July 26, 2000
By Margot Higgins
http://www.enn.com/news/enn-stories/2000/07/07262000/meat_15040.asp

Norwegian whalers can legally hunt, sell and consume whale meat and
blubber.
But beware: In random samples, dangerous toxins were found.
Norwegians may have good reason to watch what they eat.

Whale meat and blubber regularly consumed in Norway may contain some
of the
world's most dangerous toxins, the Worldwide Fund for Nature warns.

A recent WWF analysis of whale meat samples purchased in Norwegian
markets
in 1999 turned up more than 50 PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls),
including
some chemicals that cause hormonal imbalance.

"If people regularly consume quantities of contaminated whale meat or
blubber, they could be putting themselves and their children at risk,"
said
Gordon Shepherd, WWF's director of international treaties. "What is
more
worrying is the long-term exposure to these chemicals and how they may
cause
an increase in cancer, affect the immune system and reduce sperm
counts."

The findings were below the tolerable daily intake limit set by the
Norwegian government, but conservationists say the results present
another
argument against the resumption of international trade in whale
products.

The results come only a few months after the Convention for
International
Trade of Endangered Species in Flora and Fauna rejected Norway's
proposal to
reopen international trade in whale products. According to WWF, Norway
continues to hold blubber stockpiles in the hope that the ban on whale
meat
products will be lifted.

There is no market at all for the blubber in Norway," said Cassandra
Phillips, WWF coordinator for whales. "It is frozen and stored, with
the
whalers hoping the restriction on international trade will be lifted
so they
can export it to Japan or Iceland where there is a market. In May
1999, the
blubber stockpile was reported as being more than 600 tons."
According to Phillips, the average Norwegian consumes only seven
ounces of
whale meat per year.

A 1998 study by the International Whaling Commission determined levels
of
contamination among some marine mammals are so high that the animals
would
be classified as hazardous waste sites if they were on land.

Several reports circulated at the International Whaling Commission
meeting
in July about the level of contaminants of whale meat in Japan,
Phillips
added. "Building on previous studies scientists have just reported new
contaminants data from Japan, she said. "They detected mercury some
1,600
times above the government permitted level as well as large amounts of
organic mercury and cadmium in whale meat that is widely available."

WWF and the Ocean Alliance are conducting a three-year,
around-the-world
study of persistent toxins in the world's oceans.

"We are destroying ocean fisheries by contaminating them with heavy
metals
and chemical pollutants," said Ocean Alliance president Roger Payne.
"In the
next few years we could lose access to many ocean fisheries; several
species
are already well on the way to becoming too polluted to eat. I am
amazed by
how few people recognize the seriousness of this issue."

Conservation groups contend that contamination of whale meat not only
represents a human health issue but also contributes to the fact that
whales
are under various environmental pressures. Those pressures include
entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, habitat
degradation and
climate change on the food supply of whales.


Copyright 2000, Environmental News Network
All Rights Reserved



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