Japan dumps ‘unsafe’ Norway whale meat

Whale meat imported into Japan from Norway has been dumped after tests found it contained up to twice the permitted level of harmful pesticide, the government said Wednesday.

Japan dumps 'unsafe' Norway whale meat
The Norwegian whaler 'Senet' pulls aboard a 25 foot Minke whale in the North Sea, 1994. Photo: NTB Scanpix

The announcement came after Western environmentalists first exposed the issue, in the latest salvo of a battle that pits Japan against many of its usual allies, such as Australia and New Zealand.

An official at Japan's health ministry said whale meat was subject to extensive routine tests before and after import.

"We conduct strict checking because whales tend to collect contaminants in the environment such as pesticides and heavy metals," he said

He added that tests on Norwegian whale meat imported in April showed 0.2 parts per million of aldrin and dieldrin combined, in addition to 0.07 ppm of chlordane. Meat that arrived in June was found to have 0.2 ppm of dieldrin.

Japan's safety limits for the pesticides are 0.1 ppm for aldrin and dieldrin combined, and 0.05 ppm for chlordane, the official said.

In both cases the order was given for the contaminated meat to be abandoned, ministry data showed.

The official said such discoveries have not led to a halt or a scaling down of imports from Norway. He noted that imports from Norway have increased in recent years, but did not give detailed figures.

"There are very few countries where people still consume whale meat, so the food products are traded among those few countries," he said.

Grethe Bynes from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority said in-country tests on whale meat showed "only low levels".

"As we see it, it is safe to eat whale meat in Norway," she said.

The issue was raised by activists at the Environmental Investigation Agency and the Animal Welfare Institute, who also said international trade in the mammal's meat was being artificially stimulated.

"Norwegian demand for whale meat has fallen in recent years," the groups said in a statement.

"To boost domestic sales, and with an eye on new export markets, both the Norwegian government and its whaling industry are subsidising research, development and marketing of new whale-derived products."

Japan has used a legal loophole in the International Whaling Commission's (IWC's) 1986 whaling ban that allows it to continue slaughtering the animals ostensibly to gather scientific data.

But it has never made a secret of the fact that the whale meat from these hunts often ends up on dining tables.

However, consumption of whale meat in Japan has steadily and significantly fallen in recent years and there is little support for whaling itself, although a confrontational campaign by animal rights activists has galvanized some support for the practice.

Japan cancelled its 2014/15 Antarctic whaling hunt for the first time in more than a quarter of a century after a UN court ruled last year that the
programme was a commercial activity disguised as science.

Iceland and Norway issue commercial permits under objections or reservations registered against the IWC's whaling ban, and together catch
hundreds of whales per year.


Danish scientists to dissect humpback whale at aquarium parking lot

Researchers from Danish universities and the Natural History Museum are to participate in dissection of a humpback whale in Hirtshals.

Danish scientists to dissect humpback whale at aquarium parking lot
The whale after being brought to Skagen harbour. Photo: Scanpix

The seven-metre-long whale was found in a fisherman’s nets off Skagen on Monday and will be dissected in the parking area outside the North Sea Oceanarium in Hirtshals, the aquarium confirmed to local media Nordjyske.

Biologists and other experts are set to participate in the dissection and testing of the whale, which they hope will provide valuable new information about the animal’s interior.

Investigations will also include testing of a parasite found inside the dead whale.

Dissection will begin at 11am on Wednesday. The public is invited to come and watch the procedure, which will begin with around an hour's study of the animal's exterior before dissection begins, Nordjyske reports. 

The whale has been stored at low temperature since being brought to land at Skagen on Monday.

In addition to North Sea Oceanarium marine biologists, experts from the Fisheries and Maritime Museum in Esbjerg and from the University of Southern Denmark and Aarhus University will take part in the investigations.

A taxidermist from the Natural History Museum will also be present.

READ ALSO: Whale dies after ten days lost in Danish harbour