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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



IWC 2005: Australians fail to score

Things are warming up nicely for another typical fest of madness and loopiness at IWC 2005.

A few days back the Australian Environment Minister had a column of his posted here.
The Minister (Ian Campbell, to name names) ...
- talks about "fears" the lives of whales are "in danger". Sheez Ian. How do you think the cows and sheep feel? Grow a heart!

- laments the reality that the International community doesn't recognise Australia's claim over large amounts of Antartic waters

- talks about his evil master plan to disrupt Japanese whaling plans:
"The best chance Australia has of stopping the JFA from pursuing its plans is by removing an outdated loophole in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that allows for so-called "scientific" whaling."
Sorry Ian, but it's no use trying to claim that Article VIII is a loophole in the ICRW - it has been a part of the ICRW right since the beginning back in the 1940's - unlike the commercial whaling moratorium which was only agreed to in 1982. Nor is it possible to "remove" Article VIII from the ICRW. It's in the document that Australia put their signature on - if Australia doesn't like the rules, it should just get out, as is their right to do so.
And if that's Australia's "best chance", why not just admit Australia has NO chance, and that this is all just a political stunt to impress domestic voters.

Notes that "sales of whale meat produced by scientific whaling amount to more than $60 million a year", but fails to mention that the $60 million is put back into funding the research programs, and is also significantly less money than groups such as Greenpeace receive in anti-whaling donations each year. While Greenpeace and co are regarded as "not for profit", apparently Japanese research whaling which generates far less revenue and runs at a loss is "commercial whaling in disguise". Good try though Ian! All of this, and not to mention the fact that Japan needs to make good use of the whale meat or be found in breach of the ICRW...

- starts to wind up with this cracker: "
This is full-scale commercial whaling and a slaughter of one of the largest and most intelligent creatures on our planet"
18000 of so whales over 18 years represents nothing like a "full-scale" commercial whaling operation. In the past total whale numbers taken
each year were more than 3 times that figure (get your past whaling statistics here). The IWC's Scientific Committee also concluded several years ago that a yearly catch of 2000 minke whales would be sustainable under it's highly conservative Revised Management Procedure. And yet a figure of half that per year is somehow "full-scale"? To put it more bluntly, poor Ian is clearly just scaremongering.

- and finishes off with a big flourish: "
Our goal is to amend the IWC convention and remove the loophole that allows scientific whaling. This generation will be judged in part by the way we treat these amazing creatures. Australia will not only continue to fight to save this important species, we will lead this historic mission."

What a hero, huh. It all sounds very grand, but it's a foregone conclusion that Australia will never be able to achieve this goal - it's failed in this "historic mission" before it's even started. But it sounds like a wonderful nice fluffy idea, which is often enough for the western public.

The Japanese hit back strongly, firstly with Joji Morishita in response to a letter from Johnny Howard to Prime Minister Koizumi:

Japan's head whaling negotiator, Joji Morishita, accused Howard of being ill-informed and emotional in criticizing Japan's research whaling program.

"Your prime minister, for example, should be more informed about what is actually happening and the only way to solve this difficult issue is not to inflate (the) emotional side of the issue," he told ABC radio.

"We should look at science and international law; that's the only way to solve difficult international negotiations," he added.

Morishita is giving Johnny Howard a little less credit than he deserves - to be fair Johnny has admitted that the law is with the Japanese. But Johnny is Australian Prime Minister, and when it comes to whaling, Western people do get emotional and say "screw the law". It's fine when it's on your side, but apparently if you're an anti-whaler, you just ignore the law if it's against you.

Takanori Nagatomo also sums up the Japanese motivation for scientific whaling: "We have been engaging in research whaling to collect scientific data so we can resume commercial whaling"
This point is eternally lost upon Western ears, however. Tell all your friends! The Western media is throughly confused, believing that scientific whaling IS commercial whaling - the reality is that scientific research comes before commercial whaling. Without scientific data, there can be no commercial whaling, as management decisions would have no basis. Research whaling programmes contribute valuable such data, and this is also why the anti-whaling governments criticise scientific whaling. With less scientific basis for commercial whaling any quotas that might be set would likely be too small for a business to justify the start-up costs. Hence, it's in the political interests of anti-whaling governments for the world to remain as ignorant about whale stocks as they possibly can.

Nagatomo then scored points when he dismissed federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell's inflammatory criticism of Japan's scientific whaling program as uninformed and probably "drafted by his junior staff".

"I don't believe a man with full knowledge of our scientific research could make such statements," Takanori Nagatomo said after Senator Campbell called the program "sick", "obscene" and "a total insult to the word science".

And shooting home the winner, "He pointed out that removing Article 8 required agreement from all 58 members of the International Whaling Commission".
Naturally, Japan, Iceland, and other nations that believe whaling management decisions should be made with ample scientific information (as required by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, in Article V - a document which all member nations have put their signature to), so we can expect any such proposal to be soundly voted down. To be honest, I'll be very surprised if Australia even takes that route. They are probably more likely to try to amend the IWC Schedule - but that won't work either as Article VIII of the ICRW states clearly that it's provisions are "Notwithstanding anything in this convention". Functionally this is equally useless, but the anti-whaling politicians might like to hold such a revision to the IWC Schedule - even if totally ineffective - as a trophy to their domestic constituencies.

But anyway - Bang. Ian Campbell - harpooned well and truely.

The anti-whaling UK media has some additional snippets from the exchanges here.

For some much more crass and stupid comment, see here. You can always tell an anti-whaling argument is
irrational when you see references to Japan's role in World War II, and comparisons between killing whales with killing humans. No further comment required!

Meanwhile, the coastal whale hunting season has just gotten underway in Japan.

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