Poisoning of Oceans Also Affects Humans

Mercury in Oceans A ‘Ghastly Crisis’


       Chemical poisoning of the world’s oceans is “coming back to bite us in the butt,” a leading conservationist warned Friday, with evidence showing that mercury in dolphins and other marine life in the food chain is raising contamination in humans to as much as 80 times the safe level.
       Hardy Jones, executive director of BlueVoice, an ocean conservation organization he co-founded with actor Ted Danson, told guests at the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Miami that the “ghastly crisis” of ocean mercury poses an increasingly critical threat to human – as well as environmental – health.
       Joined at the conference by Ric O’Barry, the captive dolphin industry’s leading nemesis, Jones urged greater attention to the intertwined fates of mankind and the oceans that it is devastating.
       “Pollution of the oceans is getting substantially worse … it’s accelerating,” said Jones, citing scientific studies on the resulting effects, such as immuno-suppression in dolphins, carcinomas in fish, and toxoplasmosis in otters, and speaking of his own health struggles with mercury poisoning and multiple myeloma. He attributes both ailments to his former habit of eating tuna and swordfish, species now known to be most prone to high levels of mercury contamination, three times a week.
       “I thought, ‘What could be healthier?’ Well, a lot of things could be healthier. … There’s an example of what we are doing to the ocean coming back to bite us in the butt,” Jones said.
       The pollution issue is also being used as a powerful weapon in O’Barry’s campaign to end dolphin slaughter. Once famous for his work training the five dolphins that performed the role of television’s Flipper in the 1960s, he has spent the last 31 years campaigning against the very industry that he helped to found.
       The Cove, an undercover documentary in which he was involved last year, revealed for the first time the horrors of the annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan — which also yields live dolphins that are sold to aquariums and dolphinariums worldwide.  The film won his campaign greater public momentum – and a Guinness World Record for the most film festival awards ever earned by a single documentary.
       In tandem with his aim of shutting down venues that exhibit performing dolphins, he is targeting Japan’s dolphin meat industry with evidence that pollutants from eating their meat are devastating human health. Tests on residents of Taiji, for whom dolphin meat is a staple, have shown mercury levels up to 80 parts per million. The “safe” level is considered to be one part per million.
       Mercury contamination, which stems from big industry, is “not just a Japanese problem – it’s a worldwide problem.”
       “It’s in the Everglades. Every stream, every river, every canal, every lake in America is contaminated with mercury. That’s absolutely shocking,” he said.
       Widening his call for the shutdown of the captive dolphin industry, meanwhile, O’Barry rejected assertions that aquariums that keep dolphins in the name of “research” as a sham and branded it an “industry of hypocrites.”
       “Everybody uses those words ‘education’ and ‘research’ and ‘conservation.’ I mean, contemplating your navel can be ‘research’ if you want it to be. Research can be done in the wild,” he said.
       “There is no connection between captive dolphins and conservation. These people in these places can find other jobs. I did it. I was the highest paid dolphin trainer in the world before, and I still make a living.
       “They will tell you: ‘We are doing this to educate the public. We can only protect what we know.’ Well, Japan has 127 million people and most of them have been through the aquariums …. yet [in Japan] we have the largest slaughter on the planet going on in a country where we have 50 dolphinariums. So obviously there’s no connection.”
       He added: “I’m more upset with the dolphin trainers than I am the fishermen [who catch them]. In some ways the fishermen know not what they do … the dolphin trainers know, they have looked them in the eye, they feed them … they are hypocrites and, if they policed their own industry, the slaughter would probably stop.”

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9 responses to “Poisoning of Oceans Also Affects Humans”

  1. TerenceBrown2009 says:

    Not only do we need to save the environment, but we need to also save ourselves. We as humans are becoming a cancer to the earth. More needs to be done to protect the world we live in because if the slogan go green is all we’re doing then perhaps we need to do more.

  2. AC says:

    Wow, this really does seem scandalous. I hope governments and non-governmental organizations take notice of this issue and work productively to reduce the toxic levels of mercury. This is very much a human health concern. Maybe we shouldn’t hold intelligent creatures like dolphins in such widespread captivity considering that its an intelligent creature.

  3. Kevin says:

    Like many people, I enjoy raw tuna from time to time, and I usually shrug off the warnings about mercury poisoning. This may make me lay off the sashimi for a while

  4. Very good job on the story! You can really feel the passion from Jones’ words and it does a great job of captivating the reader to finish the story. It definitely makes me want to learn more about the dolphin slaughters and what is being done to stop them! I too have heard of increased mercury levels in certain fish, but I did not realize the problem was getting so bad. Furthermore, it scares me to think that the public is told what is “healthy” and what is “not healthy” to eat, all the while some of those “healthy” foods are not so healthy. Generally, the public is not fully aware of the dangers of certain foods until others suffer the irreversable consequences. It just adds more suspicion to the question, “What am I really putting in my body?” Mercury in fish is only the beginning… The more we pollute the Earth, the more we pollute our food, and the more we pollute our bodies.

  5. Melayna Dong says:

    It makes me so sad how nowadays, there are more and more foods that we have to avoid because they are no longer organic and healthy. Humans don’t realize that the everything on earth has a natural cycle, and everything we pollute the earth with comes back to bite us in the future. I hope everyone comes together in order to fix this problem.

  6. Adam Frenkel says:

    While protecting dolphins and their natural habitats is important, it is unfair to place direct blame on their trainers. To most of them working is a joy and these issues serve as primary reasons for their career choice. On the reverse side, this is the first I have heard of mercury contamination on our shores and it is alarming. Environmental sustainability is a global concern and corporations and individuals need to work together to be more responsible about consumption.

  7. Jackie Salo says:

    The poisoning of dolphins is a good indicator of what effects there might be on the human population because we eat from the same food chain. However, this affects dolphins to a greater extent than it does to humans because our diet is not as fish-heavy as dolphins obviously. There was an episode produced by a UM alum on the docu-series Changing Seas that investigated this topic. It emphasized how important it is to take action with this issue for not only the sake of dolphins but humans as well.

  8. Ashley McBride says:

    If it wasn’t the poisoning of dolphins, fish, and otters, among other sea life, that would make people open their eyes to these atrocities, maybe the poisoning of humans will. It is sad to know that it has reached this far to make people pay attention to the environment.

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