Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics
Dan Goodman of the Institute for Cetacean Research in Tokyo writes an excellent article in the Canberra Times on the whaling issue
, covering most of the issues which I have been raving on about for the past month. His article is so good, that I'm going to dump the whole thing on here:Debate on whaling being swamped by error and exaggerationTuesday, 7 June 2005 RECENT media reports concerning Japan's planned new whale research program in the Antarctic require a context. The 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling is about properly managing the whaling industry - that is, regulating catch quotas at levels so that whale stocks will not be diminished. The Convention is not about protecting all whales irrespective of their abundance.
The fact that Australia was a whaling country when it agreed to and signed the Convention and subsequently changed its position to anti-whaling following the closure of its industry in the 1970s does not change the Convention. If Australia can no longer agree to the Convention it should withdraw rather than subvert its purpose.
Although this Convention is almost 60 years old it is in every way consistent with what has more recently become the paradigm for the management of all resources - the principle of sustainable use. The Australian Government accepts this principle in other international fora and for other wildlife species except for a few charismatic species, including whales.
For Australia and many other countries, consistent application of science-based policy and rulemaking has been sacrificed as a political expediency to satisfy the interests of non-government organisations and explained in terms of moral or ethical values. This sacrifice, however, threatens the much-needed international cooperation required to properly manage and conserve all marine resources, and disregards the need to respect cultural diversity. Environment Minister Ian Campbell, who has said, "this practice [whaling] does not belong in the 21st century" should recognize his statement as unacceptable cultural imperialism.
Prime Minister John Howard's condemnation of our research programs on the basis that "it is not science" directly contradicts the IWC Scientific Committee, as do the claims of whale-watching interests that the take of any humpback whales threatens this "endangered" species. When the Committee reviewed the results of the research program at its half-way point, it concluded that Japan's program was providing valuable scientific information and that much of this information could not be obtained by non-lethal methods. Mr Howard can ignore the reality but he cannot change it. Moreover, even the Federal Government manages its fisheries resources on the basis of scientific information.
It is also a matter of record that the IWC Scientific Committee has agreed that the population of humpback whales is increasing rapidly (more than 10 per cent per year) and that it is not threatened or endangered. It is also clear that a small take for research purposes will not affect whale-watching opportunities. Statements to the contrary, together with the Greens' calls to suspend trade talks with Japan and claims of "drastic environmental consequences", are simply hysterical overstatement.
Calls from Labor for a case at the International Court of Justice on the basis that Japan is not acting in accordance with its treaty obligations under the Convention are also without foundation. Article VIII of the Convention unequivocally provides the right of members of the IWC to kill whales for research purposes, and further states that "the killing, taking, and treating of whales in accordance with the provisions of this Article shall be exempt from the operation of this Convention."
One does not need to be an international law expert to understand therefore that Japan's research whaling is perfectly legal and in full compliance with its obligations under the Convention. The fact that research whaling is a right of all members of the IWC, and exempt from the operation of the Convention, clearly renders the calls for a case at the International Court of Justice as nonsense. The same Article VIII says, "Any whales taken under these special permits shall so far as practicable be processed and the proceeds shall be dealt with in accordance with directions issued by the Government by which the permit was granted." The fact that whale meat ends up on the Japanese market is precisely because of the legally binding obligation to process the meat. Claims that the research whaling is "commercial whaling in disguise" ignore this, as well as simple commonsense that valuable food resources should not be wasted.
Further, any international court or tribunal could, on the basis of the language of the Convention, easily and quite properly rule that Australia has failed to meet its legal obligation to interpret and implement its treaty obligations in good faith by deliberately obstructing and delaying the negotiations to establish a management regime for the resumption of sustainable whaling for abundant stocks. Such a ruling would confirm that Australia has, since the adoption of the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982, contributed significantly to the current dysfunctional status of the IWC.
The fact that the Australian Government has publicly stated that it no longer accepts the terms of the Convention and yet continues to participate in the IWC is a self- indictment. For this reason, many would welcome the threatened case by Australia since the likely outcome would be exactly the opposite of that intended.
Is that why Senator Campbell and Attorney-General Philip Ruddock expressed the view that legal action would only be good for lawyers?
Of course, these facts and arguments will not convince the anti-whaling politicians and NGOs that benefit from all the media hype on this issue. It is to be hoped, however, that civil society in general will take a more rational position on the matter. There are enough whales for both those who want to watch them and those who want to eat them. Conservation of whale resources and respect for cultural diversity and international law should be the objective of all members of the IWC.
Key points from this, as I have been saying:
- If the anti-whaling nations don't like the ICRW, they should get out
- The Humpback population which is supposedly "endangered" is in fact booming at a generally accepted rate of about 10%
- Research whaling programmes are undoutedly legal, and bringing court action against Japan would be a huge own goal for the anti-whalers
- Unlike cake, it is possible to watch your whales, and eat them too. There's plenty of whales to go around.
Dan Goodman was in New Zealand a few years ago. I remember seeing him go head to head live on NZ TV with the then Environment Minister - Sandra "Whaling is despicable" Lee. Poor old Sandra got a good thrashing on that occassion. The western media would do well to take Goodman's comment on whaling issues more often.
Labels: Dan Goodman, Ian Campbell, John Howard