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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



2006 Whale meat stockpile movements

In recent times the anti-whaling propaganda has started to focus on the size of the stockpiles of frozen whale meat in Japan.

Traditionally anti-whaling propaganda attacked whale meat for being a "luxury" enjoyed by rich Japanese businessmen in flash sushi bars. For some reason this criticism has been dropped. It certainly didn't have any effect.

Based on media reports, I did some crude analysis of stock pile movements to get an idea of actual consumption trends earlier this year (here). I came to the conclusion that consumption in 2004 was roughly 3,900 tonnes or thereabouts, based on reductions in the size of the stockpile during the year. This was also probably an underestimate, since I assumed that the only whale meat coming on to the stockpiles was from research programmes, where as in reality whales that are by-caught can also be marketed legally as well.

Back during the early days of JARPA I, only up to 330 minke whales were taken annually, meaning that supply was less than 2,000 tonnes annually. 3,900 tonnes thus actually represents an increase in actual consumption in recent times. There was not 3,900 tonnes of whale meat available to be eaten back in the early 90's.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries of Japan publishes monthly statistics on the amounts of frozen whale meat in storage (amongst statistics for various other products). For those who can read Japanese, these can be found here.

The latest statistics were released on September 9, for the month of July. This was the first full month after the IWC 58 meeting. I went back a few months to when the JARPA II fleet returned, and took a look at what is happening in stockpile land:

MonthStockpile size at previous month endIncoming stockOutgoing stockStockpile size at current month end

* all figures in in tonnes

The months of March and April see a huge influx of supply as the JARPA II research fleet returns at this time, and the stockpile peaks at this time (almost 6,000 tonnes this year). Again in July, I assume the relatively large influx of 905 tonnes comes from the initial stage of the JARPN II research (?), and the months in between see only small amounts of supply which is probably the results of whale by-catch.

What's really interesting though is the huge jump in whale meat shipped in July - 1723 tonnes. I looked back through a year's worth of these reports, and couldn't see any such seasonal precedent. Were that pace annualized, consumption would completely outstrip demand.

Could it have anything to do with the extra media attention due to the adoption of the St. Kitts and Nevis Declaration at IWC 58? Or perhaps the marketing efforts of the Geishoku Labo?

I'm not sure, but I'll certainly be looking out for the figures for August when they are published within the next couple of weeks.

It will also be interesting to see what the anti-whaling propaganda says (if anything) as any trend unfolds.

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