Can You Safely Eat Dolphin Meat? [Risks & Ethics]

Many cultures still consume dolphin meat today. These dolphins that are consumed are sea mammals and shouldn’t be confused with the dolphinfish that are caught and eaten by anglers all over the world.

Examples of mammalian dolphins are the Spinner dolphin, Atlantic Spotted dolphin, and the Bottlenose dolphin. 

Dolphin meat is still eaten in many cultures today. A lot of the cultures that partake in this tradition continue to eat dolphins because they were such a large part of their ancestors’ traditional dishes. 

The meat is dark and dense and tastes comparable to beef liver.

Dolphin meat is considered to be safe for consumption by many cultures, but research shows that most of these cultures are eating fish that can poison them due to the high mercury levels that are present in the dolphin meat. 

Dolphin meat is eaten because it is a tradition for many countries, but it is also a necessity for many countries because of the lack of ability to grow or purchase their own food. Many of these places have small amounts of protein to choose from, so eating dolphin meat can be a necessity, even though it is potentially harmful. 

What Does Dolphin Meat Look And Taste Like?

Dolphin meat is a dark shade of red. Sometimes it will be so dark that it will look almost black.

The meat is thick and tough, so it is many times cut into smaller chunks or strips. This helps with cooking and eating.

The meat is often marinated for 24 hours before cooking. This helps soften the tougher meat and makes it easier for cooking and consumption. 

How Is Dolphin Meat Prepared And Eaten?

Many people eat dolphin raw or undercooked. It is cut into smaller strips and garnished with garlic and onion in some countries. This is a popular dish called Sashimi. 

Some countries also prepare them as bite-sized chunks that are fried and simmered with vegetables and a homemade sauce. It has been described as having a flavor similar to beef liver. 

Dolphin meat can be prepared in the same way that other fish are prepared. Sushi, or raw fish, has become popular over the last decade. 

Substitutions For Dolphin Meat

Dolphin meat isn’t really considered as a fish to be eaten as sushi. Because of its toughness and texture, it isn’t as enjoyable as other fish, like bluefin tuna, mackerel, and salmon. 

Dolphin Meat In Sushi

Some cultures prepare dolphin meat in a dish called Sashimi. Many people continue this as a tradition, and others eat the dish out of necessity. 

Eating raw or undercooked meat always comes with a risk, especially if pregnant. Pregnant women should never eat raw or undercooked meat. 

Choosing dolphin meat for sushi when there are other options available isn’t common.

Most people who eat dolphin meat are doing so because they do not have access to have a variety of protein. 

History Of Dolphin Meat Consumption

Dolphins have been hunted throughout history as food for many villages and countries.

They were originally hunted by Aborigines for food and other resources. At this time, the dolphins were not in danger of becoming extinct, because the fishing tools that were used were primitive. 

Now that we have more complex tools and commercial fishing is a common profession, dolphins have a much higher chance of becoming extinct.

Many species of dolphins have been overfished, which has caused a large problem with the population dwindling to numbers that are at an all time low. 

Who Eats Dolphin Meat?

Dolphins are legal to catch on many islands because they are available to these villages that are located on the water.

The Faroe Islands and the Islands of St. Vincent have no laws in place that prohibit the fishing of dolphins or the selling of dolphin meat. 

Dolphin Meat

Japan, Taiwan, Madagascar, and Peru are all countries that also regularly eat dolphin meat.

Sashimi is a popular dish that is prepared in these countries, and it is consumed raw with garnishes for taste.

Is Dolphin Meat Healthy? 

Dolphin meat isn’t considered healthy because of the large amounts of mercury that can be found in the meat.

Any sea dwelling animal that is at the top of the food chain will have some amounts of mercury in the meat. 

Smaller oceanic organisms take mercury from the water and convert it into something called methylmercury.

The methylmercury is transferred into mercury, which then lives in the smaller organism’s body. 

When the larger sea animals that are at the top of the food chain eat these smaller organisms, the mercury is then moved to their bodies.

This means the more smaller oceanic organisms they eat, the higher the mercury level will be in their meat. 

Why Do People Eat Dolphins? 

Dolphins were originally a food source to people near the water. At this time, there was no way of knowing how the mercury in these dolphins could affect the bodies of those consuming the meat. 

Tradition

Some people eat dolphins because it is a traditional meat for their culture. It is a way for them to stay close to their ancestors and honor them by continuing their traditions throughout the generations. 

In Peru, dolphin meat is called Chancho Marino, which means “sea pork”. Japan’s culture has passed down the consumption of dolphin meat throughout many generations. 

Some countries continue in the ways of their ancestors, even if science has shown that it may not be beneficial to their health. 

Necessity

Some places must eat dolphin meat out of necessity. Certain villages have rocky soil that isn’t capable of growing vegetables or food, so the locals have to resort to eating dolphins to survive. 

Cheap Source Of Protein

In countries that are considered poor or below poverty level, protein is hard to come by. For these people, eating dolphins isn’t just a way of life, it’s needed for survival. 

Protein is an important part of a healthy diet. A lack of protein may cause deficiencies and health problems.

Sign Of Prestige

In some countries, eating dolphin meat is a sign of prestige. For those that partake, eating dolphin meat shows that they are wealthier than others because fresh dolphin meat can be expensive. 

Is Dolphin Meat Safe To Eat?

Dolphin meat is not considered safe to eat, and if it is eaten, it shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities.

Many factors play into the reasons why dolphin meat shouldn’t be eaten, but they are all equally important. 

High In Mercury

Dolphin meat is excessively high in mercury. As explained earlier, dolphins are at the top of the food chain. This means their meat is higher in mercury than most sea animals. 

Countries in Japan, such as the Taiji and Kozagawa villages are known for eating high amounts of dolphin meat because it is readily available to the villagers.

The mortality rate in these villages is 50% higher than in other villages where dolphin meat isn’t eaten in larger quantities. 

How Does Mercury Damage Your Body?

Mercury is responsible for many health problems and can lead to death if too much mercury is present in the human body.

Mercury can cause brain damage and eyesight problems. It can also lead to delays in motor skills and hearing impairments.

Normal memory and the thinking process can be disrupted due to brain damage that occurs when consuming high levels of mercury. This is why when eating dolphin meat, portion control is important. 

Many people eat these mammals out of necessity, so they are stuck in a position where they must choose between their body’s health and starving.

Naturally, they choose the short term fix, but it can cause a long-term problem. 

Testing On Mercury Levels In Dolphin Meat

Dolphin meat in St. Vincent’s market was tested for mercury levels, and the results were surprising. 

The United States Food and Drug Administration says that an “action level” of mercury in fish is considered one microgram per gram of fish meat. This means that if there is this amount or more, then it is dangerous. 

The dolphins in St. Vincent had 0.92 to 1.57 micrograms per gram of mercury in the dolphins for sale in this market. This is well above the action level that the USFDA has given.

In the market, other meat was ground up and mixed. The meat was labeled as unidentified cetacean meat, which means it could have been a mixture of dolphins and pilot whales. 

This meat had 7.59 micrograms of mercury per gram of dolphin meat. These levels are dangerous, and this meat is sold to the villagers in these areas. 

Does Eating Dolphins Affect Conservation?

Eating dolphins does affect conservation. In order to conserve our sea animals, there must be time for species to regrow.

Since commercial fishing has grown as a profession, the methods of catching large amounts of fish have changed. Fishermen use these same methods to catch dolphins.

The dolphins are herded into a small enclosed area where they wait to be slaughtered. They are then taken to a market where they are sold for the market price. 

When dolphins school, they school in large numbers.

Many dolphins live in pods, so that means large pods and families are being killed, inadvertently killing off many creatures that haven’t even had a chance to reproduce. 

Since this is done in such high numbers, many species of dolphins are in danger of becoming extinct.

The Amazon River dolphin is on the brink of extinction at this point, and overfishing is the cause of this. 

Organizations such as the International Whaling Commission have put forth many efforts to control the overfishing of these sea mammals and many others, such as whales.

The most important part of conservation is allowing the animal populations a chance to reproduce and grow.

Fishing should only keep the numbers in check, but because the market is high for dolphin meat in many areas in these countries, the fishing of dolphins isn’t regulated as it should be. 

How To Prepare Dolphin Meat

Dolphin meat can be prepared in many ways. The internet surprisingly has several recipes available, even though many people don’t eat dolphin meat. 

Several cultures and villages have their own specific ways to cook dolphin meat, and many of these recipes have been passed down through generations. 

Taiji Cove is famous for having the freshest dolphin meat to prepare. This dish is called sashimi and is popular in many countries. 

It consists of strips of raw dolphin meat garnished with onion and garlic. The land here is rocky and cannot be farmed, so fishing is a way that these people survive. For them, catching dolphins for food is a necessity. 

In more rural areas of Japan, the meat is marinated in soy sauce for a full day. The meat is then prepared the next day. 

Marinating it in the soy sauce ensures that the meat will be more tender than normal, juicier than normal, and tastier than normal.

Since the meat isn’t very tasty, marinating it for 24 hours can help improve the taste. 

What Do The Experts Say About Eating Dolphin Meat?

Cooked Dolphin Meat

Experts believe that eating dolphin meat in small amounts is okay. Eating it in larger quantities will put your health at risk because of the higher levels of mercury that could be present in the meat itself. 

Raw Dolphin Meat

Raw fish is risky for anyone to eat. Eating raw or undercooked meat can cause food poisoning, which is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria on the meat. 

 Dolphins

When the meat is cooked, the temperature is hot enough to rid the meat of the bad bacteria.

When eaten raw, you risk contracting salmonella or other food-borne illnesses that can impact your health. Eating a cooked dolphin is a better idea than eating raw dolphin meat.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Dolphin Meat-Cooked and Raw?

Pregnant women can eat cooked dolphin meat, as long as it’s cooked thoroughly. Keep the portion size small.

Eating too much mercury may cause problems with your health or your baby’s health. 

Pregnant women should never consume raw or undercooked meat. Food poisoning is a common cause of miscarriages in women.

Eating raw or undercooked meat increases your risk of becoming ill and harming your baby. 

What Can You Eat In Place Of Dolphins?

There are many other fish that are located in the same areas of dolphins that are much tastier. 

Dolphinfish are one fish that are common in these areas. Swordfish and snapper are also fish that are tasty and found in most of the same waters as dolphins that are mammals.

Other Uses For Dolphin Meat

Some fisheries use dolphin meat for feed for their fish that are bred in captivity.

Some dolphins are born and bred in captivity, and the mercury level in these fish could be significantly lower if they aren’t eating fish from the ocean. 

Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Many times, dolphins are cut up and used as feed for other dolphins and fish that are born in fisheries. 

Fishermen also use dolphins to “chum”, a process which puts cut up meat into the water to attract other fish. 

The Bottom Line

Dolphins are mammals that live in our oceans. They are often seen as a sign of good luck if they are sighted during a day at the beach, and they bring much excitement for people who can see them surfing the waves or feeding in the ocean. 

For others, dolphins are a means of survival. Many rocky areas located on islands are not able to produce any type of farming.  

Their soil is rocky and doesn’t have the nutrients needed to grow food. This means that fishing is a common way to feed people in these areas. 

Islands across the world use dolphins as a source of protein for the people who cannot find better ways to acquire meat.

Even though the meat is fatty and unhealthy in many ways, it is their only option. Many cultures continue to eat dolphins because they feel it keeps them closer to their ancestors.

In these cultures, continuing the traditions of their ancestors allows them to be close to the culture and people that they hold dear to their hearts. 

If choosing between dolphin meat and other types of fish, choose the other options. The effects of overfishing these beautiful mammals have caused the species to near extinction. Eating dolphin meat should only be done if necessary.

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