Consumption of Dolphin Meat Causing Human Diabetes in Peruvian Fishing Village

San Jose, Peru.- At an increasing rate, remains of slaughtered dolphins are being found on the public beaches of San Jose, some 900 Km north of Lima, Peru. This occurs despite a law (26585) that forbids the hunting, distribution, commercialization and consumption of dolphin meat in this country.

According to a study made by the Peruvian marine mammal rescue organization ORCA (largely funded by BlueVoice), it is common to find that many families of fishermen consume dolphin meat, illegally acquiring it in local markets and fishing wharfs along the Peruvian coast. In San Jose, dolphin meat can be acquired on the beach directly from the boats that hunt dolphins. Families get involved in the hunt, as revealed by dramatic testimonials from children and teenagers who participate in the killings. To them, dolphins are a different type of “fish” also known as “chancho marino” (sea pig) or “loco” (crazy).

Increasing evidence supports the thesis that consumption of dolphin meat has led to a startling increase in incidence of diabetes among consumers of that meat. According to the medical records of patients at the San Jose Medic Post, supported by the Health Secretary of Peru, there has been a steady increase in the incidence of diabetes in this town. Cases of diabetes reported have tripled with incidence increasing from 3 to 10 new patients annually. Medical records also reveal that the highest incidence of diabetes has been diagnosed in women, but it also affects men, mainly fishermen, whose life expectancy has fallen from 60 to 40 years old over the past decade. This is due to higher incidence of diabetes, according to the local medical clinic.

The rising incidence of diabetes in the single village of San Jose, Peru coincides with a worldwide increase in diabetes and obesity, among other diseases, in communities where dolphin meat is consumed. (See companion paper by BlueVoice discussing results of 240 scientific studies pointing to a correlation between contaminants found in dolphin meat and diabetes among humans who consume this meat.)

After several assessment surveys done by the Science Department of the Peruvian NGO ORCA, it was found that dolphins are consumed by children, teenagers, and adults of both genders. In the latest survey done during March and April 2012, 100 residents of San Jose were interviewed. Results showed that 33% of those interviewed were diagnosed with diabetes, and 53% of interviewed persons knew someone in their family with diabetes. Forty-seven percent of the persons interviewed admitted they consumed dolphin meat. All of the persons diagnosed with diabetes have dolphin meat as a regular part of their diet.

Luis Fiestas, a young local fisherman, stated that within his family of two parents and seven children, both parents and six of the children suffer from diabetes beginning at age 25. He claimed that his family consumes dolphin meat regularly as “seco” which is dressed in cilantro sauce and steamed rice.

In a recent conference about the ocean’s health Dr. Yaipén-Llanos, President and Science Director of ORCA in Peru, learned from the mayor of San Jose, Prof. Victor Paiva, that it is common to find dolphin meat in the homes of San Jose. He showed serious concern about the potential relationship between diabetes and dolphin meat. He confirmed that incidences of both pollution intoxication and diabetes have risen, in correspondence with dolphin meat consumption.

Worldwide, research has demonstrated that human populations whose diet includes the meat of these marine mammals have increased levels of diabetes. Elevated incidence of diabetes has been associated with high levels of persistent organic pollutants such as halogenated hydrocarbons including PCBs and heavy metals including mercury; contaminants that are found in large quantities within the tissue of dolphins and some apex predators such as sword fish and tuna.

According to Dr. Yaipen Llanos, the local government of San Jose in Peru has committed itself to cooperate with forthcoming research and a campaign to educate the villagers with regard to the risks of triggering diabetes and urging an end to consumption of dolphin meat in order to prevent damage to future generations of Peruvians. “BlueVoice will actively support and fund this work”, said Executive Director Hardy Jones.