Porpoise Labeled as Whale Sold in Japan
TOKYO, Japan, September 25, 2002 (ENS) - Packages labeled "whalemeat" for sale in a Japanese supermarket in May in fact contained porpoise meat, analysis forced by a British environmental group has found. The inaccurate labeling is "illegal" according to the London based Environmental Investigation Agency, a charge the Japanese government denies.
Investigators from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) purchased three whale products from AEON supermarkets during the May meeting of the International Whaling Commission. The investigators did not believe the contents of the products they had bought were accurately listed on the labels.
Two of the products were labeled "minke whale skin from Greenland" and the third was labeled "whale skin from Russia."
The UK Fisheries Minister, Elliott Morley, brought the question to the attention of the International Whaling Commission, and EIA personnel met with representatives of the governments involved to arrange for analysis of the whale products.
On September 20 the Fisheries Agency of Japan issued a statement acknowledging that DNA identification analysis done by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research showed the products were not labeled accurately.
Analysis "revealed that the product labeled as 'Russian' was actually Dallís porpoise legally harvested in Japan, and that the one labeled as 'from Greenland' was Antarctic minke whale taken by the Japanese research whaling," the Fisheries Agency said.
The Japanese agency said their investigation found that this mislabeling "occurred as a production line error by the packaging company."
"Based on the Japan Agricultural Standard law, the sellers of the products were instructed to institute procedures to prevent similar occurrences," the agency said.
But the Environmental Investigation Agency charges that the inaccurate labeling "was in contravention" of Japan's Agricultural Standard (JAS) law that requires the common species name and origin of the product to be clearly labeled.
Each party is out to embarrass the other with the results of this analysis. The Fisheries Agency statement calls the EIA "a discredited UK NGO," and says "no illegal trade in whale meat had occurred."
Joji Morishita, deputy director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division of the Japanís Fisheries Agency said all is well in the country's whale meat industry. ďThis incident clearly shows the robustness of Japanís DNA system for monitoring whale products on the market which is designed to ensure that there is no illegal trade,Ē he said.
To make its point that Japan is illegally selling whale products, the EIA points to a DNA survey of 980 whale products by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research which showed that only 24 percent of products were properly labeled. Almost 60 percent of whale products did not identify species, while nine percent were falsely labeled, the group claims.
EIA campaigner Clare Perry said, "This recent analysis highlights the problem of widespread fraudulent sale of dolphin and porpoise meat as whale meat in Japan, despite the existence of full labeling requirements under the JAS Law. Japanese consumers are not being protected from the high levels of mercury, PCBs and other dangerous chemicals commonly found in small cetacean products."
The government of Japan sets harvest quotas of around 22,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales each year. In addition, Japan whaling fleets take 440 minke whales in two hunts per year, one in the Southern Ocean and one in the North Pacific.
The EIA is attempting to pressure Japan to stop whaling altogether, and in particular to stop hunting small cetaceans, in part because the chemical content of the whale meat is harmful to the health of consumers.
"Last year EIA investigators found bottlenose dolphin meat labeled as whalemeat in a supermarket in Wakayama. The total mercury level was 22.5 parts per million, a staggering 56 times higher than the government of Japan advisory limit for human consumption," the group says.
The EIA maintains that Japanese hunts of dolphins, porpoises and small whales "are contrary to the repeated recommendations of the IWC and its Scientific Committee, and contradict the government of Japan's frequently stated claim that it pursues a policy of 'sustainable utilization of marine resources.'"
Japan maintains that the majority of Japanese support whaling and want to eat whale meat. The results of a government sponsored public opinion poll released March 16 show "more than 75 percent support for whaling managed in a rational and sustainable way," the Fisheries Agency said.
|International Hydropower Association accused of excluding indigenous peoples and supporting Taibís corruption USCC Releases Model Rule for Composting Operations ADA Carbon Solutions Announces New Hire of Vice President of Sales and Key Executive Promotions|