[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Philippines: Dolphin, whale meat can be toxic


(Philippine Information Agency)

PIA Press Release
Saturday, June 04, 2011

Dolphin, whale meat can be toxic

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, June 4 (PIA) -- Apart from possible jail terms for possession of meat from dolphins, whales, manta rays or sea turtles, eating them can be fatal.
According to Dr. Alessandro Ponzo, these large marine animals are on top of the food chain and their consumption of pollution-contaminated fish makes their bodies a collector of these toxic substances.
Speaking during the weekly Kapihan sa PIA, the Italian marine biologist protector of marine mammals and director of Large Marine Vertebrate Project said chemicals like mercury is easily absorbed into these animal's bodies that eating them puts one at risk of the Minamata disease.
Dolphins, whales and other large vertebrates are by nature migratory, meaning these animals journey across world oceans and eat along the way.
When they pass through seas which are polluted or contaminated with chemical dumping, small marine organisms that live on the area eat those toxic substances, and they too, are eaten by bigger organisms like fish and shrimps, which also absorb these chemical elements into their bodies.
When dolphins and whale eat these contaminated fish, the poison is absorbed into their system.
According to a research, a mysterious disease hit a Japanese village of Minamata in mid-1050s. At first, the people there notice their house cats appearing to be going insane. Then, people also noticed there were persons in the village who began experiencing numbness in their arms and feet, getting deaf or blind and some had shaking syndromes making walking and moving around difficult, some even going insane.
Scientists and researchers studied what could have caused such peculiar behaviors. They knew it was something that was affecting the nervous system but could not readily point it out.
Then they found out that one common thing about the people is that they all ate fish, so they suspected the people were eating poisoned fish.
What was even more alarming was that babies born out of poisoned mothers had severe body deformities including gnarled arms and feet, mental deficiencies including noticed retardation, deafness, blindness and other nervous system disorders.
Later, some 2,955 people were analyzed having contacted the disease, of them, some 1,784 have since died, according to wikipedia.
Even then, dolphins and whales have been considered exotic food in several communities especially in the Visayas.
These meat are slaughtered from accidental entangling in fishermen's drift nets and are dead when pulled out of the water. These are then mixed with other big vertebrate's meat and sold falsely as a variety of manta rays, which do not belong to the banned meat.
As appeals to stop the dolphin slaughter on humanitarian, moral, and animal cruelty grounds have not worked, perhaps the appeal on food safety could work, admit environmentalists.
Cetaceans are at the top of the food chain and long-lived, therefore they bio-accumulate marine pollutants in their internal organs and muscle (red meat), especially heavy metals like mercury, a website called dolphinspirit.org said.
Many tests since 2001 have shown dolphin and whale meat to be extremely toxic with high levels of mercury, way above the government standard safe level of .4 parts per million.
Mercury and methylmercury are strong neurotoxins, which can cause severe neurological diseases, especially to the fetuses of pregnant women and brain damage to children, the website claimed.
Methylmercury is organic mercury, which is especially toxic and crosses the placenta and blood brain barrier, it adds. (Rey Anthony Chiu)

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