By Kirsten Johnson
Japans whaling efforts, at least for this year in the Antarctica, have ended. In this case, as has been reported throughout the internet, many factors are at play. Certainly, the efforts of the Sea Shepherds and Capt. Paul Watson, are responsible for pushing the entire issue to the public forefront. I find it most interesting that, “Whale Wars” hero, Captain Watson, lists his home port as Friday Harbor, Washington which in my mind is one of the worlds hot-spots for whaling issues and in particular killer whale research and watching. If you have not already found the Whale Museum and their web site, http://www.whale-museum.org/ it really keeps one current on the what is happening on cetaceans. I need a history lesson on how all this ties together, but Ken Balcomb the international recognized marine mammal expert, should also be mentioned for his significant contributions. Based on his efforts, Navy Sonar has come under close scrutiny which has resulted in a huge shift in public understanding of the dangers associated with the damaging effects it has on whales. Further his efforts to expose an equally devastating practice on marine species is the use of LIMPETS, also known as double hooked barbed darts used in tagging. We at Champions for Cetaceans have posted several blogs on these issues.
While reading an excellent article that criticized whaling on “The Diplomat” called, “Why did Japan Suspend Whaling?” written by Andy Sharp, I came upon a great comment by the author Animux. What he said really sums up the issue on whaling and why the Japanese must stop now.
February 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm
“The world’s whaling industries drove nearly every large species of whale to the brink of extinction. As the public grew to learn more about whales in the 1960s and 70s, opposition to whaling took shape. What some people fail to mention, or understand, is that Japan has a long history of whaling regulatory violations dating back to the 1930s.
Japan has historically violated size limits, species protections, seasonal limits, sanctuary boundaries, all manner of quotas, and has even facilitated “pirate whaling” (that’s front companies with foreign labor illegally killing whales and smuggling the unreported meat to Japan). The current whaling operation is merely the latest incident in an established pattern of criminal behavior. Japan kills more whales than any other nation and acts as the world market for whale meat by importing endangered Fin whale from Iceland.
The International Whaling Commission established a moratorium on all commercial whaling in 1986 and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 1994. the IWC has also passed multiple resolutions calling on Japan to stop killing whales. However, Japan continues to abuse the “science loophole” of the ICRW (International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling) as justification for subverting the democratic decisions of the IWC.
Japan annually kills endangered Sei and Fin whales, vulnerable Sperm whales, Bryde’s whales (listed as data deficient), common Minke whales (many from the vulnerable J-stock), and Antarctic Minke whales (listed as data deficient by the IUCN but some research implies this species may have suffered a significant decline). Also, coastal fishermen annually slaughter tens of thousands of dolphins for human consumption despite mercury contamination.
Jun Morikawa, author of “Whaling in Japan”, has written that whale meat was only ever a “substitute meat” during the post WWII recovery. When the economy recovered, Japanese families purchased other meats (even when whale was significantly cheaper) and consumer demand for whale has consistently declined since the 1960s. Today, only a tiny fraction of the Japanese population actually consumes whale meat.
The historical tradition of killing and eating whales is limited to a small number of isolated coastal villages. In fact, in some regions of Japan whales were once worshiped and never eaten (an aspect of Japanese culture that is somehow overlooked in this conflict). Since the start of the 20th century, Japanese whalers have used Norwegian (not traditional) industrial whaling techniques and technology in order to maximize profits like any other modern industry.
According to Morikawa, the whaling programs only continue in order to support entrenched bureaucrats (amakudari) who often leave their government jobs to take high paid positions in the commercial whaling industry they once oversaw, and secured tax-subsidized funding for, as public officials.
Due to the cost prohibitive effort to acquire this commodity, whale meat is a luxury food item. Large stockpiles of whale meat remain in cold storage as a result of poor demand. However, the government of Japan continues to prop up the failing industry in many ways. For example, the government has purchased large quantities of whale meat back from Kyodo Senpaku (the commercial arm of the industry) at a reduced price and included the meat in school lunch programs. Otherwise, Japanese children might never taste whale in their lives. (So much for tradition.)
Fisheries officials have publicly admitted the interference from Sea Shepherd has forcibly reduced the total catch for several years. In private (Wiki-leaked) discussions more officials have admitted Sea Shepherd interference has also increased domestic pressure on the government regarding whaling. However, other organizations have contributed to this effort.
Greenpeace’s exposure of a whale meat embezzlement scandal certainly raised eyebrows and tempers within a Japanese public already fed up with government corruption.
“The Cove” became a free speech issue within Japan when nationalist extremists used intimidation tactics to have the award winning documentary banned.
The UK’s Sunday Times recently uncovered evidence of Japanese representatives bribing Caribbean officials for IWC votes in an undercover investigation.
Australia has filed against Japan’s “research whaling” with the International Court of Justice.”Global opposition to whaling, including protests and petitions, is growing. Japan is the focus of this opposition because of the scale of its whaling industry and its blatant defiance of international conventions.” http://the-diplomat.com/tokyo-notes/2011/02/17/why-did-japan-suspend-whaling/