Norwegian Whale Meat Contains Harmful Pesticides

Written by on March 16, 2015 in Other News, Whales & Dolphins

Tests conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare revealed that whale meat shipped from Norway contains concerning levels of harmful pesticides.

Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). Photo credit: NOAA.

Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). Photo credit: NOAA.

Norway has increased exports of minke whale products to Japan over the last two years, shipping more than 137 tons of meat and blubber for human consumption. However, Japanese health officials raised concerns about shipments from two exporters (Brødrene Astrup Andreassen A/S and Myklebust Hvalprodukter) and recommended that the products be “returned or abandoned”, according to documents obtained by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

This isn’t an isolated incident. In 2009, whale meat exported by Olavsen A /S and Myklebust Hvalprodukter was rejected in Japan because it contained high levels of live bacteria. Additionally, whale oil capsules intended for domestic consumption contained “unacceptably high levels” of organic contaminants, according to recent studies by the Norwegian National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research.

“Norway is entirely too focused on making whaling profitable, and, as a result, is ignoring the potential harm the whale products pose to its own citizens and those in other countries,” Susan Millward, Executive Director of AWI, said in a news release.

Minke whale meat purchased in Norway. Photo credit: The great big fish in the sky.

Minke whale meat purchased in Norway. Photo credit: The great big fish in the sky.

Norwegian demand for whale meat is declining, yet whalers killed a record number of minke whales (736) in 2014. This has led the Norwegian government and the whaling industry to subsidize research, development, and marketing of new whale products. Just this month, the Minister of Fisheries, Elisabeth Aspaker, announced that the quota will remain unchanged (at 1,286 minke whales) for the 2015 season. She also mentioned the need to “facilitate favorable conditions for the whaling industry.”

AWI and EIA are calling on the Norwegian government to stop supporting research into alternative uses for whale products and to “immediately accept the international bans on commercial whaling and trade in whale products.”

“Japan is right to take action to prevent the import of toxic Norwegian whale meat,” said Clare Perry, head of EIA’s Oceans Campaign. “However, it should also look to its own cetacean hunts, which provide thousands of tonnes of toxic whale and dolphin products for unsuspecting Japanese consumers, putting them at increased risk of serious diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, arteriosclerosis and diabetes.”

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Copyright © 2015 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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