Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for June, 2012

Whale meat not selling in Japan

I saw an interesting snippet of news the other day. According to some research done by freelance journalist Junko Sakuma and released by the Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network in Japan, the meat from Japan’s “scientific whaling” does not sell. Three-quarters of more than 1,200 tons of meat from whales caught in the Northwest Pacific Ocean remains unsold, despite having been put up for auction 13 times since last October. The Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research, which organises the “scientific research”, put the meat of minke, Bryde’s and sei whales up for auction, aiming to increase consumption of whale meat and generate more sales to cover the cost of the research. Now, however,the ICR will go back to negotiating sales on a one-to-one basis, as it did prior to 2011, by entrusting the task to Tokyo-based ship charterer Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd.

“We could not achieve the results we had anticipated,” an ICR official said. The ICR found that the bids submitted by wholesalers and food manufacturers were often lower than the lowest price it had set for bids or that no bids were submitted at all.

As a result, the meat from 30.4 percent of minke whales, 81.2 percent of Bryde’s whales and 78.2 percent of sei whales has remained unsold, according to the report.

The meat is sold frozen in large portions. Fresh whale meat from Japanese fishermen still sells, according to an AFP journalist.

The news throws light on a likely reason for why Iceland is not hunting fin whales this year for the Japanese market. In April last year, Iceland’s Kristján Loftsson from the whaling company Hvalur said that his company would not be hunting whales any more as the market had collapsed after the tsunami – people no longer go out to dinner, he said. Loftsson says the market has still not recovered, so fin whales are not being hunted this year either.

Whale meat from Iceland is sold frozen to Japan. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is not sold. Period.

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Hydrogen sulphide a problem for Reykjavik Energy

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) – the gas that smells of rotting eggs – is one of the gases emitted from geothermal power stations. Little is known about the health consequences of breathing it in, but Iceland’s environment minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, introduced a regulation in 2010 whereby levels are not allowed to exceed 50 micrograms per cubic metre over 24 hours. From July 2014 levels of H2S must never exceed the 50 micrograms limit. The regulation was introduced primarily because of the proximity of a large geothermal plant run by Reykjavik Energy on Hellisheidi moor, 30 km east of Reykjavik.

However, it has now been revealed that the town of Hveragerdi, 15 km east of the Hellisheidi  plant, experienced high levels of H2S three times in 2011, and it’s very likely that this will continue. Options for disposing of H2S ecologically will take 7-8 years to develop while the existing technology is extremely expensive and unreliable. Basically, it is impossible to predict how geothermal energy will perform and it seems that the Hellisheidi plant was expanded too quickly and too frequently – it was brought into use in 2006, then expanded in 2008 and again in 2011 – before all the consequences were known. Some people are demanding a freeze on new geothermal plants.

It is a complex issue which deserves a more detailed investigation. Anyone want me to write about it?

Article on interconnectors now up

My article on interconnectors went up on IPS on Tuesday. Those interested can read it here. Interconnectors seem to have a little “Wow! See what engineers can do” flavour but they have now become a reality.

Many Icelanders seem reticent to accept the idea of an interconnector from Iceland to the UK, but maybe that’s partly due to the experience of building the Kárahnjúkar power plant for the Alcoa aluminium plant in East Iceland. Interconnectors appear to be more accepted in Britain, where some already exist.

One point I made that was taken out of the article is that energy can flow both ways, so that although in the main energy will flow from Iceland to Europe, on rare occasions the energy flow can be reversed – for instance, if there is little water in the rivers that supply most of Iceland’s electricity.

Excess cadmium found once again in fertiliser

Once again, cadmium levels exceeding the existing limits have been found in fertiliser, this time imported to Iceland from Germany. The fertiliser has been temporarily withdrawn from sale.