12 May 2003
advises pregnant women against whale meat
- Norwegian scientists dealt a blow to the nation's whalers at the
start of annual hunts Monday by advising pregnant women not to eat
whale meat because of high levels of toxic mercury.
scientific panel, which recently ruled that blubber from minke whales
contained dangerous levels of industrial chemicals known as PCBs,
said that most people could keep eating the meat despite the traces
of the toxic poison.
advice is that pregnant women and mothers who are breast feeding
should not eat whale meat," Janneche Utne Skaare, deputy director
of the National Veterinary Institute and a scientist on the panel,
said the advice, following a meeting on Monday and based on samples
from 125 whales, was in line with recommendations to women to avoid
certain types of fish including swordfish and large trout when pregnant
resumed commercial whaling in 1993, ignoring a world moratorium.
The whaling season formally started on Monday with 34 boats entitled
to harpoon 711 whales.
Kristiansen, a whalers' leader, told NRK public radio that the meeting
on mercury showed "unfortunate timing" for the whalers.
Norwegian health authorities have to approve the scientists' recommendations.
says minke whales, most often fried as steaks, are relatively plentiful
in the North Atlantic and not threatened with extinction like other
species including the giant blue whale.
the world's biggest mammals, are susceptible to picking up toxins
like mercury or PCBs because they can live more than 20 years. The
poisons get lodged in meat and fat.
is a naturally occurring element but can be released into the atmosphere
by industry, especially by coal-fired power plants. Doctors say
that even low concentrations can cause damage to the nervous system.
tests showed that whale meat contained an average 0.25 microgram
of mercury per kilo (2.2 pounds) and ranged from 0.01 micrograms
to 0.80. A microgram is a millionth of a gram (0.03527 ounce).
were highest in the North Sea and lowest in the Arctic Barents Sea.
For fish, Norway has considered 0.50 micrograms of mercury as a