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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: Letter to Herald Sun

Editor of the Herald Sun,

Dear Sir,

Your article "Serving up slaughter" (26 Jun) makes the claim that at rates proposed, the Japanese are "likely to research whales to extinction"

However, no figures are given to support this hypothesis, other than the numbers of whales Japan proposes to catch.

What drives a species to extinction is not hunting in itself, but over-hunting. Simplistically, there are two other figures that need to be considered, besides the proposed number of whales to be caught :

The first is Population size. In the most recent abundance estimate from the IWC's Scientific Committee, minke whales in the Southern Ocean were numbered at more than 700,000 animals. It doesn't take a cetacean scientist to realise that at the rate of 900 animals a year, Japan would need to hunt minke whales for more than 750 years at that rate before they all ran out.

Of course, in the meantime, whales will be dying of natural causes. Which leads into the second figure that needs to be considered - The rate of natural increase. Just as whales die of natural causes, they also reproduce and replenish their numbers as well. The proposed catch figures need to be considered along with both the population size and the estimated rate of growth. For a species with a positive rate of growth, it's common sense that humans can take some of the natural increase without reducing overall numbers. With a calculator in hand, one can see that the yearly minke catch will amount to around 0.1% of the entire Southern Ocean minke population. Even taking uncertainty into account, this is certainly no cause for concern.

Looking also to the humpback population, which is particularly dear to Australian and New Zealand hearts, Australian scientists themselves have estimated that the population is growing at an incredibly solid 10.0% per year. Again, simple mathematics shows that the Japanese research programme plans to take a very minute proportion of this
population, one that isn\'t going to reduce numbers of humpbacks migrating past Australia shores each year.

With information regarding whale population sizes, natural growth rates, and proposed catch figures, it\'s clear that Japanese whaling doesn\'t "turn back the clock on environmental responsibility" at all. On the contrary, producing food by hunting whales is a far more environmentally friendly way of putting tucker on the table than
typical anglo-saxon methods, which invariably involve destroying native flora to make way for animal farms. The whales also get to live free, natural lives as well, where as on animal farms, each is raised so that it can be slaughtered for human food.

Indeed, with such information, I believe that putting emotions aside, the mjaority of people in Australia and New Zealand (my homeland) would, in the interests of accepting cultural diversity, accept whaling providing it is sustainable. As such, rather than try to skuttle the IWC by taking an extreme anti-whaling stance, the Australian and New Zealand governments should show that they have international honour and work constructively to ensure that the IWC\'s
regulatory framework can be completed expeditiously. A failure to do so could see whaling nations break away from the IWC and form a group in which our countries would have no say whatsoever.


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