Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics
The Institute of Cetacean Research this week announced the return of the JARPN II fleet from it's most recent research expedition in the North West Pacific Ocean, and issued a press release
(in Japanese) about some results obtained so far from this year's programme.
It seems that the only whales that matter to the fund-raising groups are the ones in the Antarctic, because not only did groups such as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd not attempt to obstruct the JARPN II research in any way, they don't even seem to have noticed that it has just finished, despite 256 whales being taken (100 common minke, 100 Sei, 50 Bryde's, and 6 Sperm whales).
("Environmental Investigation Agency") has noticed
EIA is a much smaller anti-sustainable use group than Greenpeace but have been around for more than 20 years now. The EIA has a couple of it's staff members delegated by the anti-whaling UK government to attend the IWC Scientific Committee meetings, but apparently pay their own way to attend (here's a shot of their team
in St. Kitts for IWC 58). The UK banner is quite significant for them, as they can then get their names in the media with "IWC Scientific Committee member" tagged to it. Their actual comments however destroy any mirage of credibility they may gain from it.
Let's take a look at the EIA has to say then...
...booms the headline. "Every whale in sight"! Quite catchy. Full marks to the EIA media department - what are they spinning though? We shall see...
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today branded Japan’s so-called ‘scientific’ whaling hunts ‘widespread devastation’ after revealing shocking new evidence of the scale of slaughter in the north Pacific.
All that "widespread devastation" and yet the Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd eco-terrorists were conspicious by their absence. Guys? Where are you?
But I digress - EIA deserve the attention here for actually going to the effort of putting out a press release.
Despite what their press release says, EIA has done no such thing as "reveal shocking new evidence". The Institute of Cetacean Research simply their put out their annual press release following the conclusion of the 2006 JARPN II expedition, as they did in 2005 (here
), 2004 (here
), 2003 (here
), 2002 (here
), 2001 (here
), indeed, every year.
It's still "shocking new evidence" though, apparently, and they have at least made a fresh attempt at misinterpreting the information. The "killing almost every whale in sight" catch-phrase seems to be what they managed to come up with.
"... figures released by Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) yesterday show that the hunters killed up to 75% of the whales sighted over more than 10,000 nautical miles of ocean, despite Japan’s frequent claim that its ‘scientific’ hunts are sustainable and will not damage the recovery of populations."
Quite a remarkable representation of the figures for someone who can claim to be a member of the IWC's Scientific Committee, thanks to the UK Government. But let's not dwell on that too much.
Above, the EIA PR is refering to the number of whales sighted as a part of the visual survey conducted by the ICR for the purpose of whale abundance estimates, versus the number of whales sampled (i.e., lethally). Rather than have one research fleet conducting the lethal sampling in one part of the ocean, and another fleet conduct sightings survey research in another part, the ICR conducts both types of research with just one fleet.
For those readers without much background reading, essentially with sightings surveys in large wide spaces, you can't feasibly count the number of animals located in the research region at one time - the North West Pacific is just too wide an expanse. What the scientists fall back to is determining paths through the research area along which they sail their ships, counting the number of whales they see, and then essentially extrapolate the sightings data to make an estimate of abundance within the entire research area [*].
In short, on these sightings surveys only a very small fraction of the whale populations have a probability of being sighted to begin with. This is especially easy to see when one considers that the IWC Scientific Committee estimates there to be 25,000 minke whales in the North West Pacific
. JARPN II takes only 100 minke whales each year - just 0.4% of the estimated abundance. This is why people believe that JARPN II will not "damage the recovery of these populations", as EIA alluded to.
Of course, well done to EIA for twisting a sample size estimated to be between 0.20% and 0.78% of the estimated abundance into a "slaughter" of "up to 75% of the whales sighted", and going even further for the big media headline with their "almost every whale in sight" soundbite. Great stuff!
(EIA gets my nomination for "Deception of the year" award.)
“The fact that Japan is killing almost every whale they see is simply unacceptable and clearly unsustainable’ said Claire Bass, EIA Campaigner and member of the Scientific Committee to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
On the contrary, it's clearly not unsustainable, and it's a shame that Claire Bass would spoil the good name of the IWC Scientific Committee by making such statements under the title.
The situation for sei whales is also of grave concern. One hundred of the 336 sei whales observed during the latest three month cruise were killed. The population abundance of north Pacific sei whales is not known, but they are listed as endangered by the IUCN (the World Conservation Union).
The Sei whale is indeed the most frequently sighted type of whale in the JARPN II programme, with almost 3 times as many sighted as minke whales (they are easier to spot than minkes due to their larger size). EIA have tried hard here to make a crisis out of the situation, but what the IUCN actually says
The species' classification by IUCN as Endangered in the mid-1990s (under the 1996 categories and criteria) was based on an estimated decline of around 50% in worldwide total abundance over the last three generations. This assumes a generation time of roughly 20-25 years. Most of this decline would have occurred in the Southern Hemisphere, which had a much larger original population than the North Atlantic or North Pacific. While a change in classification to Vulnerable may be appropriate, there is a distinct lack of reliable survey data that could serve as the basis for reassessment.
What Japan is actually doing (unlike the EIA) is conduct surveys to obtain reliable data that could serve as such a basis, amongst various other research objectives. Interesting that EIA would rather be upset than happy at news of the reconfirmation of high levels of Sei whale abundance - yet another positive whale conservation story.
Just to finish up with EIA, taking a look at the figures we can also see that they have followed the standard anti-sustainable use group methodology of highlighting the "worst" case scenario (which I have just debunked above, anyway):
Minke sightings: 135
Minke samples: 100 == 74%
Sei sightings: 336
Sei samples: 100 == 30%
Bryde's sightings: 173
Bryde's samples: 50 == 29%
Sperm whale sightings: 333
Sperm whale samples: 6 == 2%
Blue sightings: 42
Blue samples: 0 == 0%
Fin sightings: 100
Fin samples: 0 == 0%
Humpback sightings: 78
Humpback samples: 0 == 0%
Right sightings: 14
Right samples: 0 == 0%
* * *
One last, final comment. How come when Greenpeace put out a press release, it is splashed all through-out the western media (especially Australia), yet when EIA put out a press release, only a single site
other than their own homepage runs the story? Seriously, I'm probably the second source on the Internet to make a mention of it.
Although we find Greenpeace's propaganda campaigns extremely unethical and dangerous, we have to admire the massive media network they have developed.
[*] The ICR has a primer on line-transect based sightings surveys for whale abundance estimation in the Antarctic here
. The same principles apply in the NW Pacific. The same techniques are used for estimating the abundance of a range of wildlife besides whales.
Labels: Claire Bass, EIA, Whaling