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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



Greens on Whales and Whaling

You can always tell when an International Whaling Commission meeting is not far off.

The politicians start grandstanding, and the "environmental protection" groups like Greenpeace and IFAW start asking you to give them your money again.

So far, the NZ Greens party has come out with typical baseless claims and complaints about Japanese whaling. (You can stand by for the propaganda from Greenpeace and IFAW - their anti-whaling campaigns are like christmas to them - best time of year to make m$ney. I'll post an "I told you so" when it happens)

This time Sue Kedley / Keith Locke have said that the humpback whales are "ours", presumably meaning that they think they belong to New Zealand. This claim has no substance whatsoever, and the only purpose it serves is to churn up resentment amongst the ignorant people whom might possibly give their vote to the Greens. But then, Sue and Keith are politicians, and "Green" ones at that.

Anyways, where Sue and Keith are (totally) wrong is that the humpback whales, like all other great whale species, come under the provisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). As such, the whales are can only be considered to be the "possession" of the whole international community. It surprises me somewhat that the Greens even want to stake a claim of ownership. The reality is that whales are free in the ocean - they do not belong to any group of humans. And isn't this the way it should be?

But, what the ICRW represents is an agreement amongst nations with an interest in whale resources about how they can be sustainably managed and utilised. To claim that the whales are "ours" is fundamentally wrong and will not assist in contributing towards a rational debate about whaling. Decisions must be made at the IWC meetings with other concerned partners.

As I have said previously, if New Zealand's politicians were truely upset with the ICRW, they would withdraw via the process defined in Article XI. It seems by claiming that the whales are "ours", the Greens would be quite happy to bypass the IWC and just do as they please, so someone should suggest this to them.

Also, the Greens claim that New Zealanders find killing animals and putting the meat into the market "repugnant". Oh hang on, they said "whales" explicilty... I'm proof that their claim is wrong, but for those New Zealanders who it is true, they have to ask themselves why it is "repugnant" where whales are involved, but not when every other living creature that we put on our own dinner plates is the target matter.

Of course, I would hope that I'm preaching to the converted. Anyone out there who agrees with the Greens on anything should rethink things, because there are very few issues on which the Greens make sense. And it's clear to me at least that this isn't one of them :-)

A Japanese resident also got a mention. He's right that Japanese culture must be determined by the Japanese themselves, and good on him for starting a petition to try to drive change. Not that I agree with him - it seems that he's happy to give whale meat up because he finds it "not soft" and "not tasty at all". For the record the whale steak I had once tasted just like beef, but it is selfish of him to try to deprive those who DO wish to eat whale meat of this, just because he doesn't want to eat whale meat himself. He ought to remember that it is not just Japanese people who eat whales, but also various other peoples around the world - including some for whom whale meat is still the main staple. Like the Americans for example (in northern Alaska that is :-))

Finally, the only useful fact in the article was the embassy spokespersons statement affirming that the Japanese programme is "perfectly legal under Article 8 of the ICRW". To give some background, the research programs carried out under this provision have to be proposed to the Scientific Committee of the IWC. Only after receiving an approval for the research can it proceed. The Scientific Committee is more a forum for actual science than the IWC itself, which is made up of politicians and interest groups, so the proposal will probably receive feedback and recommendations for improvement, but don't be surprised if it is largely approved.

What I guess the Greens are really trying to make people think is that if the Japanese start taking Humpback whales as well, then Humpback whales will disappear from New Zealand coastlines. This couldn't be further from reality. The Greens simply have no concept of sustainable resource utilisation - research whaling involves taking a tiny sample of the whale population for biological research, which helps humans understand these whale stocks better, thus improving our chances of wisely managing them.

More simply put, if you want to sustainably manage whales, you need to know how many you can take from the stock without depleting it over time. The idea is the same for cows. You have a stock, you kill some each year and eat them. So long as the number you kill is less than or at worst equal to the natural rate of increase, you're golden. And the scientific committee won't approve the Japanese research proposals unless it is certain that it wouldn't see an overall reduction in the numbers of whales. So if you like harrassing whales in your boats, th... eerr.... I mean, if you like "whale watching" off the New Zealand coastline, you won't be seeing any fewer Humpbacks even if the Japanese proposal is accepted.

Anything the Greens are up to is usually based on the wrong assumptions, for the best reasons.

Just imagine how much they might achieve if they could align reason with passion.

However, I confess to being biased towards preserving Whales and Dolphins, for the simple reason that I think they have the capacity to love and think. Albeit, not as cogently as some humans...
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