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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 2006: Where is the Australian whale research?

Despite a vociferous pronouncement earlier this year from Australian Minister Ian Campbell, which was widely reported throughout the western media, it appears that the results of the research are still yet to be found.

I certainly went looking for them myself, sent an email asking where I might find it (never got a response).

It's seems that Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research hasn't seen them either:
Japan's whale researchers say they are looking forward to assessing an Australian study into whale research because they have heard only rhetoric and bluster from Environment Minister Ian Campbell.

"We haven't seen any data or results yet, but we are hoping they will complement our research findings to increase our understanding of the Antarctic ecosystem and to develop an improved regime for managing commercial whaling," said Dr Hiroshi Hatanaka, director-general of Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR).

Canberra released the study late last month that, it said, proved there was no justification for countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland to kill whales for scientific research.

Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division completed the aims set out in Japan's scientific whaling program without having to kill a single whale.

The research will be presented to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June by Senator Campbell.

But the ICR - a privately owned, non-profit whale research centre in Tokyo authorised by the Japanese government - said Australia's claim that it could reproduce Japan's results using non-lethal methods was simply not the case.

"Even where they have been collecting data similar to some aspects of the non-lethal components of our research program, they have not had the extensive coverage or repetitive observations needed to detect trends," Dr Hatanaka said.

"It is unfortunate that Australia deliberately mixes the science with political advocacy.

"So far, all we have heard is the rhetoric and political blustering of Senator Campbell. I hope that both the findings from our research and Australia's research can be dealt with on a more rational and scientific basis at the upcoming meeting of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission," he said in a statement.

Japanese vessels returned to the north-western port of Kanazawa from Antarctica this weekend after more than five months away, with Dr Hatanaka saying their research had been successful and all scientific objectives had been met.
One gets the distinct impression that the research that the Australian group has done has been vastly overstated by their excitable Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell.

The fact that the research is only going to be presented at a time that coincides with the politically charged IWC meeting seems to indicate that it's being promoted for use as a political tool, rather than a serious piece of research for scientific consumption. We'll see though - I'm assuming that Campbell will not be presenting the research himself as the article suggests, but will have Australian scientific representatives submit it to the IWC's Scientific Commitee meeting prior to the main IWC gathering.

There are other grounds for being suspicious about Campbell's grand pronouncements. He seems confused about it for a start. He claimed on radio that the study was the "culmination of 10 years of work" yet in his press release on the previous day stated that it was a "10-week Australian survey".

Which is it Ian? 10 years or 10 weeks?

He also states that:
“I will be taking this information to the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in St Kitts and Nevis in June and making it very clear that under no circumstances can this continued slaughter of whales in the name of ‘science’ be justified,”
Campbell and Australia will be going way out on a limb there, as just a little over a month ago the IWC held an intersessional RMS working group meeting, at which the issue of a "code of conduct" for scientific research permits was under discussion. The fact that a code is up for discussion at all is evidence enough that the majority of IWC signatories do believe that lethal research has legitimate purposes (as they should, given their acceptance of the ICRW). The Chair's Report from the meeting is available at the IWC's home page.

But finally to wrap it all up, despite Australia's wonderful new non-lethal research programmes that are supposed to tell the Japanese everything they want to know without killing a single whale...
"Enormous uncertainty remains about how many whales, particularly minke whales, are in the Southern Ocean because estimating the numbers is very difficult."
Well how about that. All that research, and yet they still can't provide reliable information about how many minke whales there are - numbers of whales merely being an important piece of information required for setting sustainable commercial catch limits. Does Senator Campbell seriously think that this will quench the ICR's thirst for knowledge of whale stocks?

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