Monday, December 3, 2012

Continuted Investigation into Dolphin Dealths in Peru - Part 1

Peru 12/3/12 Despite all our effort the mystery of the mass mortality of dolphins in Peru February thru April, 2012 remains unsolved. Various authorities have stated emphatically that the MME could not have been the result of seismic testing but they offer no alternatives. They are trying to prove a negative, though not really going to the effort to prove it. So as I sit on Delta 151 an hour out of Atlanta and five hours to Lima I'm hoping for some advance in three areas: interviews with the fishermen who had direct observation of the seismic testing last winter and spring, more data on the correlation between eating dolphin meat and the epidemic of diabetes rampant in San Jose, Peru, a survey of all villages along the Peruvian coast to determine the numbers of dolphins taken for food, and to join ORCA/Peru to sign an agreement with the mayor of San Jose for an outreach program to reach local fishermen advising them of the danger of eating dolphin meat. Finally to take the data from Peru and universalize it to impact Japan and all the other places where dolphin bush meat is an issue. I chat with a Peruvian women on the plane and am surprised at my fluency in Spanish. I feel comfortable in Latin culture. The language, attitudes, and games played that are so transparent in another society are more opaque in one's own. Being in a foreign culture enlightens understanding of one's own culture From 1966 - 1968 I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. I surfed a lot. One of our favorite places was Cerro Azul, a bleak fishing village with a long pier pushing out from the desert shore. Cerro Azul has a great break And we were virtually alone on the waves generated by the passing of the Humbolt current up the west coast of South America from Antarctica. There were days when we would catch a rising swell, cut left and begin a 40 second run to the beach. Fins would appear in the wave. The first time it was a shock. I supposed it was a shark and my mind frantically calculated the distance to shore and the chances the shark would go after me. The animal rose toward the surface and as its back appeared came a whoosh and burst of spray from the top of what I then called its head. A dolphin!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Conclusions on Dolphin Mass Mortality Event in Peru

A Mass Mortality of Dolphins:
Deadly Warning from the Beaches of Peru
By Hardy Jones, Executive Director,

The tragic mass mortality event (MME) of at least 900 dolphins along the coast of northern Peru may be a portent of what would face marine mammal populations if seismic exploration for oil were permitted off the east coast of the United States.

See video

The MME was investigated in a perfunctory manner by the government of Peru (GOP). Government agencies were reluctant to brave the remote beaches north of the fishing village of San Jose – the so-called stranding zone. There may have been some political concerns about offending the oil and fishing industries. And there is no funding in Peru for coordinated interdisciplinary investigations, as there is in the United States, when an MME is declared.

Whatever the reason, the GOP issued a statement concluding that “natural causes” and “evolutionary forces” were to blame for the massive die-off of dolphins. That statement is clearly ludicrous.

I believe there is enough circumstantial evidence to state that a plausible cause of the death of the dolphins along the coast of Peru would be seismic exploration for oil that was being carried out in the area of the MME. The extremely loud sounds generated by detonation of powerful air guns can cause dolphins feeding at depth to race to the surface. If they surface too rapidly, bubbles develop in their tissues causing death. This recognized phenomenon is called acoustical trauma, rapid ascent decompression syndrome. It leads to decompression sickness, commonly called the bends.

Scientists once thought marine mammals such as whales and dolphins were not subject to decompression sickness because they do not breathe compressed air. But a recent study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society1 said researchers had recorded deaths among marine mammals as a result of decompression sickness, primarily among beaked whales “in association with anthropogenic activities such as military sonar or seismic surveys.”2

My conclusion comes after months of investigation, including an 85-mile drive along the sands of northern Peru and email exchanges with top experts in marine mammal rescue and previous MMEs.

As the investigation into the cause of the Peru dolphin MME continues, The Obama administration is proposing to open vast offshore tracts between Florida and Delaware to seismic surveys for potential oil deposits. The oil industry has applied to Minerals Management Service (MMS) and The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to run hundreds of thousands of miles of air gun surveys off the east coast over the next eight years. The Obama administration estimates these detonations would injure up to 138,500 marine mammals.

My investigations in Peru gave me a horrific view of the possible results of what may have been seismic testing that was being conducted in areas frequented by thousands of common dolphins. To give some background; beginning in February 2012 hundreds of dolphins were reported stranded (dead) on the beaches of northern Peru. In March I joined Dr. Carlos Yaipen Llanos of the Peruvian Organización Científica para Conservación de Animales Acuaticos (ORCA). During a single 85-mile drive along the beaches in the stranding zone, we counted 615 dead dolphins. Most were long beaked common dolphins. A few were Burmeister’s porpoise.

Dr. Yaipen Llanos, funded in large measure by BlueVoice, collected tissue samples from thirty dolphins. He conducted necropsies in situ and in Lima. After extensive testing he was able to rule out possible causal factors:

-The dolphins were not killed by fisheries interaction. -Their bodies were unscarred as they would be if they had died from net entanglement.
-There was no evidence of red tide and no species other than the two mentioned were affected.
-A contemporaneous mass mortality of pelicans was the result of starvation when their prey moved into deeper waters due to the end of a La Nina. There is no connection to the dolphin mortality.
-The deceased dolphins were well fed and healthy in appearance. A female, very recently stranded, had milk in her mammary glands.
-Morbilla virus, related to distemper, and Brucella bacteria, two pathogens commonly associated with mass mortality events, were ruled out by Dr. Yaipen Llanos. No symptoms of these diseases were found.

The Peruvian government report concurred in finding none of the above-mentioned factors complicit in the deaths of the dolphins.

What is not known, because it was not measured, is whether the dolphins suffered exposure to a huge quantity of either heavy metals or organic pollutants.

Based on the necropsies of 30 dolphins (the GOP had only three organs from two dolphins), Dr. Yaipen Llanos concluded that acoustical trauma leading to rapid ascent and decompression syndrome was the cause of death of the dolphins.

Dr. Yaipen-Llanos stated to me that necropsies that he and his colleagues performed on three separate expeditions to the stranding area showed the dolphins investigated had bleeding in their middle ears and had suffered fracture to the periotic bones that surround the inner ear. He also found gas in their internal organs and acute pulmonary emphysema, symptoms all consistent with death from decompression sickness.
Dr. Yaipen Llanos found newly stranded animals on each of ORCA’s three expeditions, showing the death of the dolphins was an ongoing process. He issued a statement saying “we believe that a strong source of sound was continuously emitted in the area. This didn’t happen just once.” He specifically did not name seismic testing as a cause, stating it was outside his professional competence.
During the course of my research I found widespread resistance from highly qualified experts to the idea that acoustical trauma was the cause of the dolphin mass mortality. NB: None of these scientists had been on scene and had gathered what little information they had from the GOP. The GOP dismissed the acoustical trauma hypothesis outright. Dr. Joseph Geraci3 told me “there is no scientifically verified case of seismic testing ever causing a mass mortality event.”

Dr. Robert Brownell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S.A also discounts the acoustical trauma theory, though he says he needs much more information before coming to a solid conclusion. But he also told me of “a mass stranding of melon-headed whales off northern Madagascar about June 2008 – (a major oil company) was working in region at the time.” He went on to say “a group of us has been trying to organize (a) workshop but (it’s) difficult with government of Madagascar (not cooperating). The possibility of a mass stranding in Madagascar caused by seismic testing does not refute Dr. Geraci’s statement in which he emphasizes the words “scientifically verifiable.” Since Madagascar won’t allow an investigation there will likely never be a “scientifically verifiable” cause of death assigned.

Dr. Brownell, Dr. Frances Gulland of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center near Sausalito, California and a number of other prominent experts on MMEs are hoping to put together a conference in Peru – perhaps in the fall of 2012.

In the meantime arguments go back and forth:

GOP: Dolphins began dieing in January and the seismic tests didn’t start until February

El Commercio, Peru’s most widely read newspaper, reported that the Peruvian Navy Had given permission for foreign oil companies to carry out seismic testing as early as November.

Various scientists: The bubbles described by Dr. Yaipen Llanos could have been the result of putrefaction in the dolphin corpse.

Dr. Yaipen Llanos: the fresh dolphin carcasses he examined had excess bubbles that differed from putrefaction bubbles.

And again, there is the GOPs conclusion that the MME was caused by natural causes and evolution.

No rebuttal required but laughter.

There will likely be no universally agreed upon conclusion on what killed more than 900 dolphins along the coast of Peru. The most plausible cause, the one that has not been disqualified, is seismic testing for oil. At very least this possibility needs to be factored into decisions on permitting this form of testing in the future.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In the Land of Dr. No

As the day wore on the tide moved up the beach pushing us closer and closer to the dunes. Finally we were driving through the surf and I felt that we had accomplished our mission. We had counted 615 dead dolphins and had evidence of the tragedy and necropsy samples that might shed light on what had produced this catastrophe.

We found an opening in the dunes and headed east toward the Pan American Highway. Initially we passed through an area behind the dunes that was flooded when the sea was high enough to crest the dunes. But it was now dry and reasonably hard. We made good time.

Our little fellowship consisted of Carlos and me, a driver, a tall female Dutch student and two female Peruvian members of ORCA-Peru. It was pretty cramped. A dangerous lot if I’ve ever seen one.

We then entered an area of powdery sand blown up into ridges that shaped just like waves. We’d go over the top of a crest then plunge into the trough. Hints of previous traffic were everywhere but no clear road to the Pan Am.

Eventually we found ourselves perched over a vast open pit mine. Massive trucks and earthmovers gouged the earth for phosphate. We made our way down tracks in the desert, occasionally stopping to ask guards in variously colored hard hats for directions. They looked surprised but pointed east.

Eventually we reached a huge conveyer belt and then saw the exit gate, which was open. As we approached it men in various colors of overalls and hard hats came running toward us. The gate was closed in front of us. We were in the land of Dr. No.

They asked for our IDs. Strutted around. Wrote on their clipboards. Carlos laughed saying “They’re so screwed because they’ve allowed a breach in security.” I thought, “They’re nuts to write this down. They should just pass us through and hope no one knows we got through their lines.”

Finally they let us out and we ran back to Chiclayo.

What were they afraid of; that we’d steal their phosphate? Or was there something in the mining process that was running into the sea. There was that one huge pipe running through the desert. The words “something evil this way comes,” ran through my mind.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Catastrophic Die-off of Dolphins Along Peru Coast

During February of this year there had been rumors of as many as 260 dolphins dead on the north coast of Peru. But some authorities dismissed the report. I backed off the story. But on March 23rd I received an email from Dr. Carlos Yaipen Llanos, Lima-based director of the marine mammal rescue organization, ORCA Peru, stating there had been approximately one thousand dolphins stranded along the north coast of Peru. Lest there be any doubt, stranded means dead in virtually all cases.

For a night I stared at the ceiling. What was the truth of what was happening along that bleak, desert coast, one of the most abundant fisheries in the world and mating and feeding habitat for huge numbers of dolphins, sea lions and birds? If the numbers were even close to accurate this would be among the greatest dolphin mortality events ever recorded. I called Dr. Yaipen. He had a man on the ground north of Chiclayo who confirmed large numbers of dolphins stranded along 200 kilometers of the coast.

I immediately packed my bags and booked a Delta flight for Lima the following day. Carlos met me at the airport. Our 6:25am flight to Chiclayo was cancelled due to Lima’s pea soup fog so we grabbed an overnight bus. We linked up with three young ORCA women who had done some scouting for Carlos. They confirmed dead dolphins on nearby beaches but had traveled only a few miles.

At 11am we packed into a four wheel drive Toyota pickup with a back seat cab and drove through San Jose to the beach, cranked a right turn and headed north at low tide on a beach that was mostly firm. Our goal was to find the thousand beached dolphins reported and were told the greatest concentration was three hours drive north. That was our goal and we determined we would not stop for anything else.

Within a few hundred yards we began to see dead dolphins. In ones and twos, then Carlos saw a Burmeister’s Porpoise. Some were highly decomposed while others were in the surfline freshly stranded. All were dead.

Carlos and his team performed necropsies on a couple of the dolphins. Seeing a new born common dolphin, umbilicus still attached was wrenching.

We raced along the hard sand at the edge of the surfline crying out when we saw a dead dolphin. At first they came every couple minutes. But then we’d hit intervals when the cries would go “dolphin! Delphin! Otro! Dos mas! There’s another one up by the dune.”

When I asked for a total from Carlos’ s assistant I was stunned to hear we’d counted over 200 dolphins. We hit a length of beach no more than 100 yards long in which we found ten dolphins of varying levels of decomposition.

The numbers continued to mount. By the time the rising tide forced us off the beach the count had reached 615, counted over 135 kilometers.

Dr. Yaipen Llanos and I had known each other for some four years. We’d become involved in a study of Peruvian fishermen who eat dolphin meat. While illegal, this is commonly done and the authorities do not have the resources to prevent it. But Dr. Yaipen Llanos had discovered something important. The fishermen who ate dolphin meat regularly had a disproportionately elevated incidence of diabetes. I had found diabetes in Taiji, Japan in two men who ate dolphin meat; not in itself significant but these were men who had no other symptoms. Both were lean, didn’t eat sugar. What they did eat was dolphin meat and a certain fish that is known to have high levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals – chemicals that also disrupt the way the human body utilizes insulin.

Read my blog on the connection between eating dolphin meat and diabetes immediately below.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Eating Dolphin Meat Linked to Diabetes Epidemic in Peru

Dr. Yaipen Llanos Necropsies Dolphin

By Hardy Jones, Executive Director,

After a day counting hundreds of dead dolphins along the Peruvian coast north of San Jose, I was not prepared for another shock of equal magnitude. The following I drove from Chiclayo to the coastal fishing village of San Jose with Dr. Carlos Yaipen Llanos of the Peruvian-based marine mammal rescue organization ORCA. Our purpose was to further document his recent discovery of the existence of an epidemic of diabetes among citizens of the fishing villages of coastal Peru.

It has long been known that Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are estrogen-imitators and endocrine disruptors. More recently it has been shown that in humans a high body burden of these chemicals causes insulin resistance and can lead to diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Yaipen Llanos has found that diabetes appears especially prevalent among those who eat the meat of dolphins. It is illegal to hunt dolphins in Peru but it is done with impunity and the practice appears to be growing.

We parked along the beachfront and walked toward a chaotic scene of scores of moderate sized boats lying on the beach or in the process of being dragged by huge tractors into the water. The town has no docking facilities. All over the beach small clusters of villagers, some appearing to be recent arrivals from the mountains, gathered around buckets brimming with sleek, silvery bonito. The fish were being washed, gutted and sold on the spot to eager women who, once they had their fish, took off at a fast walk for home; their faces beaming with smile.

Overall the scene was grim – something out of Mad Max; Huge trucks and tractors belching smoke, turning, backing, hooking to a boat and hauling it well into the surf then returning for another.

Three members of Carlo’s team fanned out over the city conducting interviews about diet and any knowledge of diabetes among family or acquaintances. The number of positive responses was staggeringly high.

Carlos and I went hunting for vendors of dolphin meat but found none, not surprising as the practice is illegal and we are obvious outsiders. But children on the beach told us it was common to sell dolphin meat. The way it is done is horrific. The dolphins are netted offshore and brought to shore alive, then bludgeoned to death. Eventually they are butchered and the meat sold. The thought is so disturbing that I fight to keep it out of my mind. I have competing horrors in my psyche, each struggling to get to consciousness.

A short walk down the beach led us to the butchered carcass of a dolphin – probably a long beaked common dolphin.

Carlos and I took a short break for lunch. We ordered friend fish and rice with yellow beans. We force fed ourselves water to keep hydrated. As we ate I heard someone behind me say the word “diabetes” I speak Spanish pretty well but wanted Carlos to confirm. “Yup, those guys are taking about just coming from a funeral where they buried a friend who had just died from diabetes,” said Carlos. The coincidence was almost too much to believe. But on the other hand illustrated the prevalence of diabetes in the village.

We jumped back in the Toyota and drove to the village health clinic where we interviewed (name to come) the head nurse of the facility. She confirmed not only a high rate of diabetes but a rate that was spiking. She seemed very interested when I told her of the connection between consuming dolphin meat and insulin resistance. She agreed to expand and specify the questions she asked diabetic patients – not just how much carbohydrate or meat or vegetables do you eat, but how much fish? How much carbo? How much chicken? How much beef? How much dolphin meat?

This blog will continue.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Horrific dolphin mortality north coast of Peru

I arrived here on Tuesday 3/28. On that one day we found 615 dead dolphins on 135 kilometers of beach north of San Jose, Peru. This tragedy is unspeakable. I have never heard of this level of UME (unusual mortality event). BlueVoice is working with Dr. Carlos Yaipen Llanos of ORCA Peru. Tissue samples have been obtained and will be analyzed. This must be investigated.

We have video and stills for the media. You can reach me at

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dolphin Dead in N. Peru but not 240

Photo of dolphin meat by Dr. Carlos Yaipen Llanos
By Dr. Carlos Yaipen-Llanos reporting to BlueVoice

I just returned last night from the stranding site. Several key findings. I traveled with the personnel of Reuters International (Press Agency) and it is going to be a press release tomorrow. I am on the paperwork for a denounce (report) to the Ecological Police of Peru too. Despite it was a one-day-round trip, it was enough to assess the situation. I will try to describe in detail our findings. Definitively, we have to go back because too many lives (both human and animals) are at stake.

1. The species affected are not bottlenose dolphins as depicted in the media, but Long beaked common dolphins (Delphinus capensis). We found adult males, females, pregnant females, juveniles and calves.

2. There were not 260+ stranded dolphins. In our survey over 100 Kms between San Jose and Morrope in Lambayeque State, we just found 17 dolphins.

3. A pod of over 150 Delphinus capensis was sighted during the survey, surfacing and feeding in coastal waters, 150+ meters inshore. So, it is a fact that the dolphins LIVE in the area and it is critical for their
breeding behaviour, that will justify the high presence of babies.

4. The stranding started last Thrusday (Feb 9th). However, at 5pm on the 11th, a juvenile dolphin stranded right in front of us (there is an online
picture of the dolphin with blood by the ear-eye).

5. I don't think this mass stranding is related to the earthquakes as stated in some media for two reasons:
a. The Delphinus capensis migrate from Costa Rica to the Central Pacific to northern Peru, to far away from the epicenter of any of the latest earthquakes (around 1000 km difference).
b. Since there are not 200+ stranded dolphins, the problematic is more "focalized" to a local issue.

6. There were no fish of any kind stranded sea animal next to the dolphins. Anchovies were reported floating in the water last week by the media and govenrment officials, but we found no evidence of fish species being affected at this point. Fishermen were fishing flying fish in the area with no problem.

7. As far as we know, the Imarpe (Institute for the Sea of Peru) took samples for analysis. However, in our survey no dolphin showed signs of necropsy or sample collection, just slaughtering from fishermen. I always
check this in the animals to have a bigger picture of what the authorities are looking for (and if they have any clue at all).

8. There was no evidence of carcass collection in 100 kms long, including within the town of San Jose were fishermen and children are in the beach covered of trash and the carcasses of death dolphins (most of them
slaughtered). There was also no evidence of ocean tide removing carcasses because we found several dolphins located far into the high tide, there since last Thrusday.

9. As you know, in January 21st this year, a previous survey performed in Colan, Piura State (300Km north of San Jose). We assessed nine baby common dolphins and a new born porpoise with acute gastric syndrome and signs of immune-suppression / toxicity, but next to them, hundreds of fish corresponding to both bentic species such as morena fish, clams and needle fish, and pelagic fish like species that match the living sustrate of the common dolphin and the black porpoise. We also found large stains of oil compounds in water and sand by that time for our diagnose
was bio-accumulation under the frame of some sort of hydrocarbon flux to the sea in that area. Basically, long term pollution exposure.

10. In previous survey we collected samples of a baby porpoise for histopathology. In this survey, we collected samples from the juvenile common dolphin: Periotic bones and main organs. This dolphin was
immune-suppressed, since it has a severe infection, abscesses and signs of pox in the skin. I also sampled key tissues to discard the potential presence of viral diseases such as distemper through histopathology. I
certainly believe the common dolphin pods are suffering of long-term pollution exposition, leading them towards immune suppression symdromes that will be more evident in the forthcoming years.

11. Now Hardy, what we found in this mass stranding is that 10 of the 17 animals found dead had broken periotic bones, that is, due to acoustic impact. The source of the impact was from the right side of the pod, since hemorragic internal ear was found in the right side of the stranded animals.

12. We know that the use of dynamite is common among fishermen, and that fishermen are taking the meat of the stranded dolphins. This could be the cause of death of the animals...however, the signs do not correspond to that of explosive impact in their bodies. We talked today with people from the oil company and they say they haven't performed any seismic exploration in the area this month. However, here in Peru these companies
doesn't need to do the seismic assessment themselves.

13. ORCA has a wide registration of dolphin slaughtering in San Jose, as well as dolphin meat consumption and a high incidence of diabetes among
the human population that has dolphin meat in its diet.

It is our next step to go back to San Jose and vecinities to collect more information and samples for the pollution assessment. We can save it in
storage until the equipment is available. This is critical for both animal and human health.

Hope you find this information helpful.



Dr. Carlos Yaipen-LLanos
President - Science Director

Organization for Research and Conservation of Aquatic Animals
Facebook: Orca Peru

How Ocean Pollutants Lead to Obesity, Diabetes and Larger Breasts

by Hardy Jones

Women's breasts are larger than they used to be. For a while I thought it was just a change among younger women. But then it became clear to me that the same phenomenon had emerged in women of more mature ages. My weekly trip to surf a nude beach north of San Francisco clinched it.

A quick run around the Internet confirmed what my eyes were telling me. According to Britain's The Daily Mirror, no stranger to alluring photos of fetchingly undraped lassies, the average bra size in the UK is now 36C, up from 34B ten years ago. And the paper reports Marks & Spencer will stock J-cup bras for the first time. Formerly the largest cup size was a G. Similar figures are found in the United States. The average bra size has gone from 36C to 36DD over the past five years.

I realize some of the increase in breast size is intentional. Cosmetic implants are ever more popular. The contraceptive pill has been linked to increasing breast size. And larger breasts may simply be the result of the simple fact that people are eating more food and more fattening food and so carrying more overall weight than they have historically.

So why is a writer/ocean conservationist who specializes in marine mammals and ocean toxicity turning his attention to bra sizes? I'm a man and hard wired to notice such things but that's not why I'm writing about this.

The answer lies in my studies of the relationship between the super feminization of women (and feminization of men) and consumption of foods that contain estrogen-imitating chemicals. Classes of chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) mimic the effects of estrogen in the mammalian body. Some of these POPs are familiar to many -- PCBs and PBDEs, flame retardants and coolants in transformers, electric motors, computers, even baby clothing. Another, still persistent in the environment after 35 years off the U.S. and European markets, is DDT and its metabolite DDE. The more you eat of foods containing these and similar chemicals, the more of the estrogen imitating compounds are ingested, significantly altering the body's hormonal balance. POPs are lipophilic; that is to say, attracted to fat. These chemicals, that arrive via the wind and waters are stored in the fat of animals and fish.
My area of concentration has been with this phenomenon in the marine environment. POPs are bio-magnified up the food chain so that someone eating a large fish will ingest far more contamination that when eating smaller fish. The tests BlueVoice and others have done on dolphins, feeding at the apex of the oceanic food chain, show high levels of POPs in their tissues virtually worldwide with variation depending on size of prey fish and location.

The larger breast phenomenon is only the tip of this chemical iceberg. Serious illness and disruption of mammalian immune systems are additional byproducts of these chemicals. Obesity and diabetes have been directly connected to them as well. Recent studies on animals (tests I almost always oppose) show evidence of a link between POP exposure and insulin resistance syndrome, metabolic disorders that include type 2 diabetes (EHP 118:465-471; Ruzzin et al.) A highly alarming correlate is that obese and diabetic individuals have a far higher risk of getting cancer than people with lean physiques. A critical factor is that POPs are absorbed in fatty tissues. Ironically when obese persons lose weight they flood their blood and tissues with the POPs previously bound in fat. This is especially dangerous on a crash diet.

I was diagnosed in 2003 with multiple myeloma, a disease that has been linked to high levels of toxins. In 2005 I had myself tested for POPs and the levels were, in some cases, extremely high. The reason for my accumulation of these chemicals appears to be that during the late 1990s I ate large quantities of tuna and swordfish as well as other fish. In 1997 I had been diagnosed with chronic mercury poisoning. Again, best guess is the culprit was large predatory fish. The mercury levels came down within six-months of taking large fish off the menu. The POPs have half-lives of eight to 15 years and take decades to fully clear.

Today, through in collaboration with Elsa Nature Conservancy in Japan, I test dolphin meat for chemical pollutants. We virtually always find high levels of both POPs and heavy metals such as mercury. We publish these results both to educate human consumers of fish and to argue that eating dolphin meat, with the high contaminant levels, is a health hazard. We hope this will drive down demand for dolphin meat in Japan and worldwide.

It is not only the females of species that are affected. In mammals as diverse as alligators, polar bears and human beings high levels of estrogen imitating POPs correlate with decreased sperm counts, reduced volume and quality of semen, depressed levels of the male hormone testosterone, and high levels of estrogens in both males and females. Reproductive failure in mammals including humans has reached alarming levels.

The impact of these chemicals does not stop with the immediate consumer. Women who inadvertently include PCBs in their diet pass them to their children in fat rich breast milk. The role of environmental chemicals in obesity is emerging from the realm of speculation to hard science. And more studies are in the works. The Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Strategic Plan recently acknowledged the problem. In 2011 the NIH launched a three-year effort to fund research exploring the role of environmental chemical exposures in obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and metabolic disorders.

These studies and action to reverse the conversion of the world's waterways into chemical soups cannot come too soon. In the meantime there are steps you can take: choose fish that are no larger than an average dinner plate and trim away fat. Avoid farm-raised fish. They contain high levels of POPs. Choose lean cuts of meat and trim fat. Do not cook with lard or by frying.

Follow Hardy Jones on Twitter.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The True History of Actions to Save Dolphins at Taiji

Friday, September 16, 2011
Chronology of Efforts to End Dolphin Slaughter at Taiji

by Hardy Jones

Photo by Dieter Hagmann

This posting attempts to cover only events at Taiji, deliberately omitting what occurred at Iki and Izu during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I welcome any additions or corrections by email.

Admittedly this chronology is heavy in references to BlueVoice due to the fact that I am most familiar with our work. Again, I invite additions and corrections from informed sources.

In 1980 Howard Hall and Hardy Jones, while en route to Iki Island to film a dolphin slaughter, learned of the capture of 200 melon-headed whales (actually a species of dolphin) at Taiji, Japan. They brought their cameras to Taiji and were able to effect the release of all the melon-heads.

In 1999 the massacre of a group of bottlenose dolphins at Futo came to the attention of CBS News. Hardy Jones was interviewed on the subject and seeing the ghastly footage decided to return to Japan to see what might be done to end the dolphin killing.

In 2001 Hardy met Sakae Hemmi, of Japan’s Elsa Nature Conservancy, and the two worked together at Taiji and Futo to end the dolphin killing. They returned each year, in some years accompanied by photographer Larry Curtis, during dolphin hunting season with Hardy filming and Sakae gathering data.

During the early 2000s Environmental Investigation Agency sent representatives to Taiji who were treated very roughly.

In 2002 Hardy’s film, When Dolphins Cry, premiered on National Geographic Channels worldwide. It portrayed the killing of dolphins at Taiji and the story of the conversion of Izumi Ishii from dolphin hunter to dolphin watch leader.

In 2003 representatives of Sea Shepherd went to Taiji. Two of their members cut nets holding dolphins in Hatagajiri Bay. Whether any dolphins escaped is an open question. But the act brought both international news coverage and heightened security at the killing cove.

2003 was also the first year of Ric O’Barry’s efforts to end the killing of dolphins at Taiji. He has returned to Taiji for extended periods each year since and later starred in the film The Cove.

In 2005 PBS broadcast Hardy Jones’ The Dolphin Defender, a film that included both the story of the slaughter of dolphins at Taiji and the beginning of dolphin watching at Futo.

During much of the first decade of the 2000s WDCS supported the work of BlueVoice in Japan and conducted outreach programs elsewhere in Japan to educate the Japanese public about the dolphin slaughter and the dangers of consuming mercury laden dolphin meat.

During the years 2007, 08, 09, 10 and 2011 German journalist Dieter Hagmann visited Taiji and brought back extraordinary footage of the brutality of the dolphins slaughter. His work appeared in TV-Stations: ARD, ZDF. Newspapers: SUN (British), Bild (German), Aftonbladet (Sweden), Associated Press (Japan), Zeeburg Nieuws (Netherland) Press Agencies: PRNewswire, asiaprnews, Reuters, CNW, DPA with many online publications.

Since 2006 BlueVoice, in conjunction with Elsa Nature Conservancy, has been conducting tests of dolphin meat for mercury and organic pollutants such as PCBs. Results have shown high to exceptionally high levels of these contaminants. Tests also showed extremely high levels of mercury in persons who consumed dolphin meat.

In 2007 surfing legend Dave Rastovich along with film star Hayden Pantierre paddled surf boards into Hatagajiri Bay and brought international attention to the situation at Taiji.

At roughly this time, a film crew organized by Louie Psihoyos began work on a film centered around Ric O’Barry and his crusade to stop the killing at Taiji. The result would be a documentary film named “The Cove.”

In 2008 a Japanese journalist, Hiroshi Hasegawa, received data developed by Elsa and BlueVoice that documented high levels of mercury in four dolphin-eating Taiji citizens. Hasegawa then conducted additional testing that found even higher numbers for mercury among the dolphin-eating population. The results were published in AERA, a major Japanese magazine. His article spurred the National Institute for Minamata Disease to propose testing citizens of Taiji for mercury. The tests showed that citizens of the town had very high levels of mercury but claimed they found no impact on health. That conclusion has been widely disparaged by international experts.

In 2010 the Psihoyos film, The Cove, won film festival after film festival culminating in winning an Academy Award. This film brought a tsunami of protest against the practice of killing dolphins and raised the issue around the world. Psihoyos and his cohorts have continued their efforts in Japan to end the dolphin slaughter and The Cove continues to reach audiences worldwide.

During the 2010 – 11 hunting season Sea Shepherd maintained a group of activists at Taiji known as the Cove Guardians. They provided web reporting throughout the entire period of the hunt.

In 2011 BlueVoice sponsored tests conducted by Elsa Nature Conservancy of dolphin meat from Okinawa and Taiji. The tests showed elevated levels of mercury and PCBs. The tests results have been widely disseminated in Japan.

At the beginning of the 2011 – 2012 dolphin hunting season Ric O’Barry organized a prayer vigil at Taiji and, along with associates such as Leilani Munter, provided information on the hunt during September.

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians also returned to Taiji and are reporting from the scene.

Despite these extensive efforts the hunt and slaughter continues.