Friday, September 6, 2013

~The dangers of eating fish ~


Laboratory workers at Fukushima Prefecture Fisheries Research Center chop fish caught earlier in the day by local fishermen for radiation test in Iwaki City, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. Fourteen fishing boats at a port in the city are asked by Fukushima Prefecture to conduct a once-a-week fishing in rotation to measure radiation level of fish caught in the waters off Fukushima at the laboratory. Fishermen in the Iwaki fishing ports had hoped to resume test catches in September following favourable sampling results after two years of the disaster. But those plans have now been scrapped after the recent news of radiation contaminated water leak from storage tanks at the nuclear power plant. 
(AP Photo/Koji Ueda) (Credit: Koji Ueda)

FRIDAY, SEP 6, 2013 01:19 AM MDT
Fisheries in Fukushima prefecture (state) are closed, and fish caught in nearby prefectures are sold on the market only after tests have shown them to be safe for consumption.

However, South Korea’s ban applies a total of eight prefectures with a combined coastline of more than 700 kilometers (430 miles), regardless of whether the fish pass safety standards or not.

The South Korean government made the move because of insufficient information from Tokyo about what steps will be taken to address the leakage of contaminated water from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, according to a statement by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, acknowledges that tons of radioactive water has been seeping into the Pacific from the plant for more than two years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns at three reactors at the plant. Recent leaks from tanks storing radioactive water used to cool the reactors have added to fears that the amount of contaminated water is getting out of hand.

Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said Friday that fish and seafood that go to market are tested for radiation and shown to be safe. Suga also stressed that the contaminated water flowing into the ocean is limited to a small area off the coast of the Fukushima plant.

“There is an international standard on food, including fish, and we are carrying out stringent safety controls based on those standards. We ask South Korea for a response based on science,” he told reporters.

South Korea Vice Fisheries Minister Son Jae-hak said in a briefing that the eight prefectures in 2012 exported to South Korea 5,000 metric tons of fishery products, or about 13 percent of the 40,000 total tons imported last year from Japan. Fish will be banned from the following prefectures: Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba.

Hisashi Hiroyama, a Japanese Fisheries Agency official, said Japan exports about 9.2 billion ($92 million) of fish a year to South Korea. The most common fish exported from Japan to South Korea was Alaskan Pollock.


10:32 06 June 2002 by Andy Coghlan
Tests on whalemeat on sale in Japan have revealed astonishing levels of mercury. While it has long been known that the animals accumulate heavy metals such as mercury in their tissues, the levels discovered have surprised even the experts.

Two of the 26 liver samples examined contained over 1970 micrograms of mercury per gram of liver. That is nearly 5000 times the Japanese government's limit for mercury contamination, 0.4 micrograms per gram.

At these concentrations, a 60-kilogram adult eating just 0.15 grams of liver would exceed the weekly mercury intake considered safe by the World Health Organization, say Tetsuya Endo, Koichi Haraguchi and Masakatsu Sakata at the University of Hokkaido, who carried out the research. "Acute intoxication could result from a single ingestion," they warn in a draft paper accepted for publication in The Science of the Total Environment.

The researchers call on the government to impose tighter regulations on the consumption of whale organs. In particular, they warn that pregnant women risk poisoning their unborn children. In the 1950s and early 1960s, hundreds of children around Japan's Minamata Bay were born with horrific birth defects after their mothers ate seafood contaminated with mercury compounds, which had been poured raw into the bay since the 1930s. Thousands more suffered brain damage.

Single mouthful

Even veteran researchers from the Minamata saga were shocked by the new figures. "Hirokatsu Akagi, a director of the National Institute for Minamata Disease, was very surprised," says Endo. "He'd never seen levels above 20 micrograms per gram."

On average, concentrations of mercury in whale and dolphin livers were 370 micrograms per gram, 900 times the government limit. Average levels in kidneys and lungs were also high, about 100 times the limit. None of the samples was below the limit.

In work not yet published, Endo's team has shown that rats suffered acute kidney poisoning after a single mouthful of the most highly contaminated liver. While levels were lower in muscle, Endo told New Scientist that on average it still contained 2.5 to 25 times the limit.

The samples came from small-toothed whales and dolphins, catches of which are not restricted by the International Whaling Commission, the international body that regulates whaling. Mercury becomes concentrated in their internal organs when they eat contaminated fish and squid.

Japan continues to campaign vigorously to be allowed to resume full-scale whaling of larger species. But an IWC meeting in May 2002 ended in deadlock.



"I travelled with all my questions to the Faroe Islands" by Pascale Kirchen

If you are interested in dolphins and whales and if the protection of these animals is a concern, then you will not pass by the Faroe Islands!

I've read much on Facebook about the "bloodthirsty, murderous and cruel" Faroese, for whom the Grindarap is all. I have read about the actions of Sea Shepherd, about the new efforts of other groups, and I've signed dozens of petitions. But with time, I started to doubt: Who can take an animal activist seriously that feels only hatred for other nations, and wishes death on people? Who can take an animal advocate seriously, who demands only senseless things without making the effort to research the living conditions of others? And who has the right to dictate to a nation how it should live in its own home at all? Do we have not enough to do with cleaning up our own doorsteps?

So I travelled with all my questions, and my joy of adventures, to the Faroe Islands. I had the first encounter in the taxi on the way from the airport to Tórshavn. The driver, a man of about 48, told me cheerfully about his country, praised the good fish and recommended that I try whale meat. When I told him that I'd prefer whale watching to whale eating, he said something like that whale watching did not exist in the Faroes. I told him that I would have enough opportunity later in Iceland, my next destination. We talked about this and that and then I carefully brought up the topic of the “grind”. He said that he likes whale meat, and it was always so, but his son doesn't like it and his wife is even less impressed. I reminded him that it is surely better not to eat much whale meat because of the pollution and the toxins, and also that it is in their interests to be frugal with their resources, since the stocks are clearly in decline in recent years. He agreed with the contamination, and said they would not eat various parts of the whale because of this. But he said there were enough whales. Time flew past quickly and I had the impression that he wasn't annoyed by the conversation, because he said goodbye in a very friendly manner and wished me happy holidays.

I had another very interesting conversation with a saleswoman in a souvenir and woollen sweater shop. To her question how do I like her country, I answered truthfully that I was thrilled with the Islands but that I had a problem with whaling. She said frankly that she would also have a problem with it, and whaling wasn't necessary any more these days. I again mentioned my arguments and she fully agreed with me! An old man came into the shop and bought something. The saleswoman offered us a cup of coffee. She introduced me to the man and said that he was a former whaler. She translated for me what he said. He was very sad because fewer grinds are taking place. His son is just a normal fisherman and his grandson wants nothing to do with either whaling or fishing! I asked them directly about the actions of Sea Shepherd and she hesitated a bit with the answer. Finally, she said that Sea Shepherd haven´t made any friends there with their attitude. She asked whether I belonged to them or any other groups? I said truthfully that I disagree with Sea Shepherd but sympathise with another group. She asked me a simple question that surprised me: Why? I told her that I am of the opinion that dolphins and whales are a legacy for everyone on this planet and not only for those in countries surrounded by water. I'm convinced that our world will have lost something important, come the day that the seas are empty. The man and the saleswoman congratulated me on my position. We chatted a little about every day, you and me at home, and then I said goodbye.

As a smoker you tend to spend quite a lot of time outside, in front of doors, and there I was asked by a young man in front of a pub about the pendants on my necklace.I seized the opportunity, told him about my passion for polar bears, the Arctic, whales and dolphins, and I asked him directly for his opinion on the grind. He replied just as directly: A steak tastes much better than whale meat. He was glad that they had less whale meat at home, and for a few years now no more at all. He said whale meat is eaten mostly by those over the age of 45, because it's what they are used to.

His friends joined us and, to my surprise, none of them were particularly motivated to continue this tradition. None of them liked whale meat and none go to watch the grind. One of them was even against whaling. I asked him if he would have any problems in a society where everyone knows each other, and he laughed. No, he said, every opinion is respected here and there are a lot of people who think it isn't necessary to maintain every tradition. But he knew that the Faroese are very often condemned abroad because of the grind. He felt this was very discriminatory since Faroese culture has many other aspects. Foreigners seemed to think that life on the Faroe Islands centred just around the grind 24 hours a day.

I had several similar discussions and noted that women, particularly, increasingly speak out against the grind. The reason is that they do not want to give contaminated meat to their children, but also because of the way the animals are slaughtered. Many people I spoke to confirmed what Rúni Nielsen, who is well known on Facebook, has been saying. Rùni expects that the grind will be history in the next 10-15 years, because whaling lacks new followers. Young people have other interests than the grind. More and more Faroese become aware of the contamination of the whale meat and it is eaten less. Many people referred to whale meat as 'Poor people's food'.

Now, after all I've seen and heard myself, I fully agree with Rúni's opinion. They will surely be hard years. The helplessness at home will certainly drive me to expletives and anger again. But I will certainly not judge the Faroese! I've seen that Faroese people are open, friendly and helpful. They answered all my questions even though they are aware of our prejudices, and despite the negative impressions left by foreign groups.

The Islands are a paradise for all nature lovers, lonely endless walks, stiff breezes and wild, romantic coves. There are few tourists and the hustle and bustle and stress of everyday life had disappeared in just 2 days! Moreover the old small grass-roofed houses. I honestly admit it: I am thrilled with this country and its people!

In my last hours on the Faroe Islands, I had a conversation I could never have dreamed of! I met a Japanese student who studies, amongst other subjects, whaling. For the third year in a row, she had spent 2 weeks on the Islands with a local host family, observed the grind, studied the tools, etc. We spoke firstly about whaling in Japan. She was very clear and confirmed my/our presumption that scientific whaling is a joke. She didn't know anyone in Japan who eats whale or dolphin meat and she doesn't think that it's part of Japanese culture. Whaling has a small role in Japanese economics. She heard about Taiji recently through the film 'The Cove'. Last year she tried to get gather information on Taiji, but she had no chance. She was not allowed to go to the cove or in the processing halls, she got no documents concerning the number of dolphins slaughtered and also no information on the dolphin trade for dolphinaria. She was very surprised by this rebuff and wants to try again this year with other students and the support of the University. Amazingly, she was against whaling although whaling is one of her studies. To the question what does she think about the grind on Faroes she replied: I must hurry up with my studies because it is a dying practice. We will be staying in touch and I hope for more information about Taiji and whaling in general.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Faroese for their honesty.

Also many thanks to Gaye Hunter and Sasha Alazy for the excellent translation.

Pascale Kirchen, September 2013


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