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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



Japan whale meat stockpile stats by graph

Continuing on with my analysis of official frozen whale meat stockpile figures from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries, I've created some graphs to make it easier to see the patterns in the numbers:

Click on graphs for larger version

Figures for the 12 months to August 2006 end

From these figures we can see very clearly that the incoming stock is only a significant feature in the months of March, April, when the research vessels returns to port from JARPA II in the Antarctic, and again in July and August with the JARPN II programme supplying by-products in the northern summer months.

For the rest of the year, there is little in the way of supply. That which there is presumably whale meat resulting from by-catch and strandings. The Japanese government legalises selling whale by-catch as a means of compensating fishermen for the damage done to fishing nets (I understand that there are certain conditions for this - the ICR has some strandings figures which I will take a read through sometime).

So, the trend is there to see pretty clearly - incoming stock for the year to the end of August 2006 is only marginally ahead of outgoing stock shipments, resulting in a 469 tonne difference. Average outgoing stock shipment per month was around 650 tonnes, so really we are not talking about a huge difference. Certainly a far cry from the Greenpeace assertion that the market for whale meat in Japan is dying. This is all the more remarkable as the supply of whale meat in March and June was around 2,500 tonnes higher in 2006 than in 2005 (those months not shown on these graphs). That is, the bulk of the additional supply has apparently already been absorbed - an approximate 2,000 tonne increase in consumption over the previous period.

Were I a betting man, I'd be putting money on the option that says consumption will outstrip supply for the year to February 2007.

* * *

Some of those who hold the view that there is a dwindling market for whale meat will question where the extra consumption is coming from. You only have to read my blog to see stories of increasing consumption in the Japanese news media (including reports of 50% increase in whale meat sales, which reconciles with the official figures above). Nonetheless, the skeptical still refer to the idea that the government is forcing whale meat down the throats of school children, the elderly, and the sick.

In fact, figures released by the ICR indicate that just 574.4 tonnes of the total of 3,435.8 tonnes of whale meat by-products from the JARPA II was allocated for use in non-profit activities (school lunches, and distributions in traditional whaling areas, etc).

* * *

An interesting feature of the whale meat by-products supply is that obviously there are two main seasons when whale meat comes into stock - the month(s) when the whaling fleet returns from the Antarctic, and when the fleet is operating in the North Pacific. The viability of a future commercial whaling industry presumably has a large reliance on the possibility of resuming commercial whaling not only in North Pacific waters, but also in the Antarctic, as this means that the whaling fleet capital is not tied up at the wharf for half the year.

* * *

UPDATE: Graphs courtesy of a great little web-based tool that you can access here.

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This really clears things up. For a long time now I've been getting conflicting reports on the Japanese whale meat market. I'll be sure to post this on my group.
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