Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics
This blog's resident European armchair environmentalist regurgitated some comments which are regularly bandied about by Greenpeace and their ilk (see John Frizell's response to me for an example), and it's worth addressing them in detail once and for all here.
"In the 31 years prior to the introduction of the commercial whaling moratorium, only 840 whales were killed globally by Japan for scientific research."
It's widely accepted that there was a lack of scientific knowledge prior to the introduction of the moratorium, and the problems this caused for whale management. Despite the ICRW stating that ammendments to the Schedule be based on scientific findings, this wasn't the case, and scientific advice was (as it is now) regularly ignored.
The IWC/SC had called for more research in 1972 when a 10 year moratorium was first proposed:
"By consensus the Scientific Committee agreed that a blanket moratorium could not be justified scientifically. The Scientific Committee ... recommended an expanded whale research program in place of a blanket moratorium .
This expanded whale research program didn't happen, however.
The IWC's New Management Procedure (NMP) that was devised around that time was also scraped eventually as (amongst other reasons) it wasn't specific about the standards of data it required for implementation.
Post moratorium, the IWC/SC committed itself to it's "comprehensive assessment" of whale stocks, and the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) was devised. The RMP addressed the flaws of the NMP and, as I've noted before, not only did the entire scientific committee recommend it, but the politicians of the IWC agreed to adopt it in 1994.
As it was prior to the moratorium, the IWC/SC is still ignored today (the RMP still hasn't been implemented 11 years later), but now the IWC ignores it's Scientific Committee in favour of the vociferous anti-science NGO groups instead. This suggests that a swing back to the center can't be far off.
Ideally politicians shouldn't be entrusted to make these decisions at all. They have no incentive to vote in accordance with science, and the powerful NGO groups through their high profile PR campaigns make sure that they have reason not to.
More than 6,800 Antarctic Minke Whales have already been killed in Antarctic waters under the 18 years of the Japanese Whale Research Programme.
And for their long term commitment to improvement of scientific knowledge, Japan ought to be commended. More emphasis must be placed on science in the future of whale management at the IWC.
Greenpeace however like to claim that the research is all an elaborate sham. Yet this claim isn't supported by the IWC Scientific Commitee. The IWC's own homepage notes
that in a review of the programme at it's halfway point the IWC/SC had this to say of the Japanese research:
"The results of the JARPA programme, while not required for management under the RMP, have the potential to improve it in the following ways: (1) reductions in the current set of plausible scenarios considered in Implementation Simulation Trials; and (2) identification of new scenarios to which future Implementation Simulation Trials will have to he developed (e.g. the temporal component of stock structure). The results of analyses of JARPA data could be used in this way perhaps to increase the allowed catch of minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere, without increasing the depletion risk
above the level indicated by the existing Implementation Simulation Trials of the RMP for these minke whales."
This is perfectly in line with the goals of the ICRW, which are
- Make for the development of the whaling industry. Catches above what would be possible with the RMP certainly would help contribute to that objective.
- Whale stock conservation. As noted by the IWC/SC, increased catches that may be possible thanks to the research that the Japanese have been conducting would be possible without increasing the depletion risk.
Of course, Greenpeace never mentions this.
Instead they selectively extract just 7 words reading "not required for management under the RMP", criticising the research on these grounds - yet that is not the point of the research. Japan hopes to improve scientific knowledge even further
, so that an even better management procedure can in future be possible. As Dr Doug Butterworth has noted, the RMP is
"so risk averse that the only real scientific basis for questioning its immediate implementation is that it is so conservative that it will waste much of a potential harvest.
All ICRW signatories should therefore be doing what they can to contribute to improved scientific knowledge such that the deficiencies of the RMP may too be addressed. Ironically while Japan's action are fully in line with the goals of the ICRW, it is Japan that is the target of criticism!
This is the difficulty in the whaling debate - Greenpeace's aim is to ban whaling, where as Japan's aims remain consistent with the goals of the ICRW - conservation of whale stocks while making for the development of the whaling industry.
Greenpeace's criticism is thus clearly not in terms of the applicability of Japan's research to the goals of the ICRW, but of the relevance of Japan's research to Greenpeace's ideals. Naturally Greenpeace would argue against further research, as Greenpeace's ideal is for there to exist as much scientific uncertainty regarding whale stocks as possible.