Iceland resumes commercial whaling while whale meat exposed as toxic to humans
Today's announcement by the Icelandic Fisheries Ministry that it would resume commercial whale hunts is deeply disturbing to Humane Society International (HSI) and undoubtedly the conservation minded countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The ministry also announced it will start hunting highly endangered fin whales in addition to minke whales, two long-lived species that are slow to reproduce.
These actions are not only morally reprehensible but undermine international treaty law and the IWC's core obligation of ensuring the continued survival of whale species. HSI calls on IWC member governments to condemn Iceland's actions and to take high level diplomatic steps that would stop Iceland from killing whales.
Iceland's history with the IWC is contentious and capricious, agreeing to the global ban on commercial whaling one year and quitting in frustration another after being criticised by conservation countries for hunting under the guise of "scientific whaling." Its precedent-setting flip-flopping wreaks havoc on international law and agreements and jeopardises the fate of the world's great whales. Iceland is out of step with modern views and sensibilities toward whales and the global obligation to protect them.
Iceland’s move to resume commercial whale hunting coincides with publication of a scientific paper that documents the levels of toxic substances found in whale meat sold in Japan. Over a third of Japan’s minke whale meat tested positive for the pathogen Brucella, which causes serious disease in both humans and animals. Its discovery typically requires the slaughter of infected animals, and in the U.S. it is considered to be a potential bioterror weapon. Additionally, concentrations of mercury and organochlorine pollutants (including DDT) were found to be up to 22 times the legally permitted levels, with mercury considered to be high enough that “a single ingestion of the boiled whale meat may cause an acute intoxication”.
“Iceland, Norway and Japan are undermining international treaties as well as disregarding irrefutable scientific evidence and public opinion. Japan’s marketing initiatives include providing whale meat to primary school children. These levels of toxicity could result in children with brain stem damage or mental retardation. This is ethically and morally reprehensible on every level”, said HSI’s Wildlife and Habitats Program Manager, Nicola Beynon.
A copy of the scientific paper on the human health risks of eating whale meat is available on request.