Porpoise slaughter starts again

Posted: 31 October 2005

Today (November 1) marks the start of the hand harpoon hunt of Dall's porpoises off the northeast coast of Japan. It is the 25th consecutive year as the largest cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) kill in the world. But, says the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), such slaughter is unsustainable.

This year, Japan's Fisheries Agency has issued permits for the killing of 17,700 Dall's porpoises - a quota,unaltered since 1993. This quota, experts say, is based on questionable survey data more than ten years out of date.

Dalls Porpoise, Otsuchi fish market, Iwate Coast, Japan. Photo: Pierre Gleizes / Environmental Investigation Agency
Dalls Porpoise, Otsuchi fish market, Iwate Coast, Japan. Photo: Pierre Gleizes / Environmental Investigation Agency
Dalls Porpoise laid out at the Otsuchi fish market, Iwate Coast, JapanPierre Gleizes/Environmental Investigation Agency
According to Clare Perry, EIA Senior Campaigner, more than 400,000 Dall's porpoises have been slaughtered by Japanese hunters in the last quarter century. "The population cannot sustain this scale of mortality", she said. "The hunters themselves have already admitted changing their hunting strategy to target mother and calf pairs, as they find it harder and harder to catch their quotas."

Polluted meat The hunt produces around 800 tonnes of meat annually which is primarily for human consumption. This vast quantity of meat far exceeds demand for actual porpoise meat, however retail surveys using DNA analysis have shown it to be falsely labelled and sold around Japan as 'whale meat', where it can fetch up to ten times the price of locally sold porpoise meat.

The meat contains dangerously high levels of pollutants, such as methylmercury, which is present at concentrations more than three times higher than the Japanese government's permitted level for human consumption, says EIA.

The agency is calling on the international community - governments, scientists and the public - to act now and put pressure on the Japanese government to stop the 'senselesss slaughter' of Dall's porpoises. "The hunt is an environmental crime that threatens not only the Dall's porpoise populations in Japan, but the Japanese people that consume them."

To find out more about EIA and the Dall's porpoise hunt, visit EIA