By Anna Kitanaka
Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Taiji, a town in western Japan known for its annual dolphin hunts, will test residents for mercury poisoning from eating the mammal’s meat, the Japan Times said.
Residents who had regular health checks between June and August were asked to have a sample of hair tested for methylmercury, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified city official. The results are expected by March, the report said.
The Taiji Fisheries Cooperative hasn’t killed any dolphins for food this hunting season, catching the animals only for sale to aquariums, the report said.
The hunt, which began last month and runs through February in the town 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Osaka, received worldwide attention with the release this summer of “The Cove,” a documentary by U.S. filmmakers that shows the dolphin cull through footage shot with hidden cameras.
Dolphin hunting for food in Japan dates back as long as 9,000 years and the town’s hunt is legal under international and domestic law, according to a Web site operated by Taiji’s fishing association.
According to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, 1,623 dolphins were killed in 2007 in Wakayama, the prefecture where Taiji is located, the second-highest number after Iwate in northern Japan. Eight of Japan’s 47 prefectures are permitted to hunt dolphins, with the number killed targeted at around 20,000 annually, according to the agency.
Broome, Taiji’s sister-city town in western Australia, this week reversed a decision to cut its relationship with Taiji after expressing concern about the dolphin hunt, according to a separate Japan Times article today.