Fish are friends, not food. Take it from our friend Bruce here. He vows to be a “nice shark, not a mindless eating machine.” (If only we could all say the same thing, eh?)

Well, dolphins are mammals, but Bruce’s point still stands. If you don’t believe him, then maybe you should listen to the citizens of Minamata, Japan.  In 1956 these individuals were the first group to be exposed to intense Mercury poisoning, but since the condition was unprecedented it was labeled as a “disease.” Victims of Minamata disease experienced numbness or difficulty in limb movement, a narrowed visual field, language or hearing disorders, a skewed sense of equilibrium, tremors, and movement disorders of the eyeballs. These effects drastically increased in newborns and children. In severe cases, people could become mad or unconscious, leading to death.

Since then research has pinpointed these mutations to deterioration of brain neurons as a result of Mercury exposure. To ensure that events like Minamata do not take place again, associations such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency have set up regulations measuring the appropriate level of mercury intake (about 1ppm at the highest). However, recent tests of Japanese whale and dolphin meat have found concentrations of Mercury in the Japanese people up to 18.9ppm! Tetsuya Endo is the conductor of one such study in Taiji, Japan. Endo’s experiments involved taking hair samples from 50 residents to examine their Mercury levels. The results placed the average Taiji citizen about 10 times past the national average of Mercury intake, with some patients showing Mercury levels high enough to match that of Minamata victims! Here is a clip from The Cove expanding on this issue:

Despite these startling outcomes in Japan, the government makes no effort to caution their people of the poison that has become a staple of their dietary habits.  In fact, much of it is mislabeled as whale meat to begin with and used to be served at school cafeterias! Much of the Japanese people are not even aware that they are eating dolphin, let alone that this meat is extremely dangerous to their health!

Bruce the shark has one more line in his vow to be a friendly being. It goes like this: “if I am to change this image, I must first change myself.” In order to avoid another tragic situation like Minamata, the Japanese people must change themselves as well. They must change their economic view, and have this reflected in their buying and consuming practices. However, this can only be done if a Japanese authority takes charge and spreads awareness about the danger that the Japanese people are in. An educational, persuasive, and influential voice must be the one leading a cultural change of such significance.

Will Ichiro Fujisaki please stand up?