Toxic and Unsustainable: Report Highlights Problems with Japan’s Cetacean Hunts

Written by on November 5, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law, Whales & Dolphins
Short-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus).

Short-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Photo credit: Joachim S. Müller via photopin cc.

The targeted hunts of whales, dolphins and porpoises off Japan constitutes the largest direct cetacean hunt in the world. Over the last 70 years, more than one million cetaceans have been slaughtered in those hunts. A new analysis by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Toxic Catch: Japan’s unsustainable and irresponsible whale, dolphin and porpoise hunts, reveals that these hunts are unsustainable and could drive key species in Japan’s coastal waters to extinction.

At a press conference where the report was launched, EIA urged the Japanese government to phase out the hunts over a 10-year period.

Catch limits set by the government permit the killing of 16,655 small cetaceans in 2013. Very little is known about the methods used to set those catch limits, but the report states that most population estimates are based on surveys more than 20-years-old, which don’t reflect current population declines.

“The hunts in Japan’s coastal waters specifically target nine small cetacean species, eight of them with Government-set catch limits which are clearly unsustainable,” said EIA cetaceans campaigner and report co-author Sarah Baulch in a news release.

In addition to the sustainability issues with the small cetacean hunts, there are also widespread concerns that consumers are not informed that a lot of the meat can be full of mercury and other toxic contaminants.

To learn more:

Driving the dolphins into The Cove in Taiji, Japan. Photo courtesy of

Driving the dolphins into The Cove in Taiji, Japan. Photo courtesy of

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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