Postcard: Taiji

Most of the world opposes hunting dolphins and pilot whales. And in this part of Japan, the mercury content is off the charts. So why is deep-fried dolphin still on the menu?

Sea Shepherd Conservation / HO / AFP

Japanese fishermen riding a boat loaded with slaughtered dolphins in Taiji harbor, in Japan's Wakayama prefecture.

Children in Taiji often wolf down tasty school lunches of short-finned pilot whale. Deep-fried dolphin and sweet-and-sour minke whale are also occasional cafeteria offerings in this small fishing town, where sea mammals have long been considered a reliable source of protein. Taiji (pop. 3,600) is proudly regarded as the birthplace of Japan's 400-year-old whaling industry. But Hisato Ryono, a local assemblyman whose uncle used to work as a commercial whaler, is having second thoughts about schools serving his sons flippered fare. Not because he is finally bowing to international opposition to the hunting of dolphins, which scientists rank among the most...

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