Saturday, March 31, 2012
Eating Dolphin Meat Linked to Diabetes Epidemic in Peru
Dr. Yaipen Llanos Necropsies Dolphin
By Hardy Jones, Executive Director, BlueVoice.org
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.