Amazon.com has been allowing whale meat to be sold on its Japanese site (amazon.co.jp), but within hours of a press release from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) highlighting this fact, Amazon removed the whale meat from its site.
Last year, EIA found 147 whale products for sale on Amazon Japan through third-party sellers. The listed products included fin, sei, minke, and Bryde’s whales. Sei and fin whales are on the IUCN red list as endangered species.
Some of the products were imported from Iceland. International trade in whale products is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
One-third of the products were not labeled by species or by place of origin, which is required under Japanese law. A previous investigation by EIA found that a product listed as pilot whale was actually Risso’s dolphin.
In 2003, the Japanese government released a seafood health advisory warning pregnant women to limit consumption of Baird’s beaked whale, pilot whale, sperm whale, and bottlenose dolphin due to high mercury levels. Toothed whales and dolphins are higher up on the food chain and are more likely to have contaminants concentrated in their flesh.
EIA purchased eight of these products from Amazon Japan in February 2011 and had them tested for mercury. Two of the products tested below the government safe limit for seafood, which is set at 0.4 parts per million (ppm).
The other six whale products tested between 0.5 and 21.0 ppm – up to 52.5 times the government safe limit.
Amazon’s Endangered Species Policy
Amazon.com has a policy on the U.S. site prohibiting the sale of illegal wildlife products and parts or products from whale of dolphin. It seems the policy simply needs to be extended explicitly to their international sites. The whale meat products have been removed from the Amazon Japan site, but without a policy, they’ll just be added back.
You can contact Amazon.com through their contact page to let them know what you think of their international policies. When you first arrive on the contact page, the options for email, phone, and chat are grayed out. The contact page has three steps. To access those options, do the following:
- Skip step 1.
- On step 2, select “more non-order questions.”
- The email, phone, and chat options will become available.
[Whale meat photo via Shutterstock]