Tag Archive: Minamata disease


Dear Ichiro Fujisaki and Readers,

You have reached my tenth and final post for this blog! Congratulations on making it this far (I know some of these posts are quite lengthy) and thank you for taking the time to educate yourself on an issue that deserves your attention. You now have the intelligence to go out and make a persuasive case on the campaign against dolphin slaughter.  Let’s recap on what embodies this education. Hyperlinks direct you to the blog post that expands on the linked subject.

More than 2000 dolphins are killed each year in Japan alone. A majority of this slaughter takes place in a cove in Taiji, Japan. Research supports that dolphins have an incredible capacity for intelligence, self awareness, and memory. Therefore they may even be aware of their fate in the cove! Despite the brutal manner in which these animals are killed, which involves hours of torturing their sonar perception by banging on pipes, the meat is extremely toxic with mercury. This mercury is extremely harmful to humans, as seen in the Minamata case.

The Japanese government refuses to take action to change these policies or warn the Japanese people that their food may be poisoned. Some of the meat is even mislabeled! Promoters of the practice claim that it is a cultural tradition, but common knowledge amongst Taiji civilians about the issue is rare. The angered reaction from Japanese fisherman when the topic is exposed further adds suspicion to this cultural justification.

There are plans that can be implemented to begin the process of excluding dolphin as an edible product. They include restricting fishing policies and banning the distribution of dolphin meat according to health regulations. Even though dolphin does create a large amount of economic profit for Japan, there are more also reasonable plans that provide economic profit without murder. These include eco-friendly tourist outlets like dolphin watches or cruises. However, these plans can only get enough momentum to become a reality if YOU are there to propel it.

Along the journey to reach this final post, you have heard many stories. You have heard my story as an aspiring scuba diver looking to speak up for the ocean. You have heard the story of Frankie, who is one of thousands of people (like me) trying to convince you to stand up and serve as an influential voice on the dolphin campaign. You have even heard the stories of individuals like Hayden Patteniere, Ric O’Barry and Elora Malama, who are taking incredible measures to ensure a safe future for dolphins and the Japanese people. But at the end of the day, it is your story that really matters. I urge you to take the knowledge you have obtained in this blog and spread it for the world to hear. It is time to protect your people. It is time to take a stand. It is time to give dolphins something real to smile about!

Thanks for reading,
Kelsey Anderson

PS.   READERS: The strength behind this campaign does not solely lie in the voice of Ichiro Fujisaki. It lies in yours as well.

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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?