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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



The McDonalds-ification of Conservationism

Greenpeace has launched a very slick looking new web-based campaign to 'save the whales'.

They hope to trigger 'a positive and productive public debate both in Japan and all over the world.'

This in itself is commendable, but what sort of debate are they looking to trigger?
The lack of clarity gives the impression that rather than a debate about a principle that needs fighting for, the intention is likely almost any old thing so long as the conclusion is 'save the whales' - that essential element of Greenpeace's global brand.

In their introduction Greenpeace repeat their latest deception - 'most people [in Japan] are against whaling in Antarctica', but are helpful enough to expose their own untruth later by stating the 'fact' that '69% of the Japanese population does not support whaling in Antarctica' (my emphasis) - a creative twist for a start, on a survey that they commissioned, that was also not representative of the population as a whole, and in fact even then showed that just 26% were opposed to a resumption in commercial whaling in general (all of which I covered here recently).

Two further 'facts' which Greenpeace see fit to inform people of was that '61% haven't eaten whale meat since childhood, and ONLY 1% eat whale meat more than once a month'. Such information by itself can give a very false impression as readers may then fail to consider that limited consumption might in fact be related to a global moratorium on commercial whaling, of course not to mention a true fact that private consumption has been rising quite significantly recently, as analysis of official figures indicate.

Yet another piece of information that Greenpeace see's fit for it's readers is that 'Japan has more than 4.800 tones of FROZEN whale meat in storage'. The average stockpile figure over the past 12 months was actually more like 4,400 tonnes, and the trough size was less than 2,900 tonnes (based on current consumption this trough size looks to go even lower in 2007). But more significantly, the fact is that there is usually more than 1,000,000 tonnes of frozen marine products stockpiled in Japan at any point in time. The whale meat stockpile is almost insignificant when viewed in this relative context. From the production point of view, the contrast is even more stark - the FAO homepage notes that Japan's "coastal fisheries have maintained a stable supply of marine products, yielding 1 577 000 t in 2003." That's without considering Japan's other fisheries - on the other hand Whale meat supply currently appears to be less than 10,000 tonnes annually.

So, Greenpeace apparently hopes that netizens, with this misinformation in mind, will help them to devise some direct actions that will see "the whole world to stand up for the whales and against the Japanese government's policy of killing them."

The chances of whalers listening to people who have been brainwashed with such propaganda is ziltch, by my reckoning. If Greenpeace really wishes to see a "positive and productive" debate take place, they'll start by at least informing their gathering of "environmental activists" of the basics, and then decide on some clear terms of reference to actually entice the whalers into such a discussion.

Don't hold your breath.

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Interesting points David that you made in my blog regarding the recommencement of whale killing by Iceland.
But not ones of course that I could agree on.
1. You say that"...their Marine Research Institute says that as many as 150 could be killed each year on a sustainable basis...& killing just 9 is hardly going to make a dent in the recovery..."
So we see already that vested interests in Iceland are planning a much larger scale slaughter of 150. Interesting & alarming!
Furthermore you ignore my point that Iceland's decision to ignore the IWC will be used by other countries to follow suit. Then the global slaughter begins in earnest.
2. "...Only 25 nations participated in a formal protest against Iceland..." Only? Wow- that is quite a initial large bloc of resistance to Iceland's move based on my analysis of environmental global issues over the last few decades. You can be sure too that many citizens in other countries have expressed anger to the recommencement of the slaughter.
3. "...if other nations also decide to resume sustainable whaling in a similar manner, I see little issue...".
Well I do. Unlike 19th century Europe, modern society doesn't need the killing of whales for mainstream economic activities as we have developed less gruesome sources of substitute materials or energies.
4. "...The money generated through export to the Japanese market is by no means insignificant. Just because Iceland is relatively wealthy already, why should they not look to further develop and diversify their economy?..."
Yea, sure why not support economic growth in African and southern Asian countries & slaughter tigers, rhinos and elephants in order to satisfy the culinary and sexual tastes of elements within Chinese and Japanese society?
5. "...Iceland's healthy reputation is probably the reason that so few nations decided to protest against their whaling resumption... 25 governments and NGOs and thousands of concerned citizens is not insignificant in any person's language.
Trust me- we will keep the campaign going to end the slaughter of the innocents in order to save the whale and hope that mankind is learning to view the planet as more than just something that exists for his owned selfish destructive ends.
Hi speedie,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Nice that we can continue our discussion.

1) Iceland's Marine Research Institute is hardly a vested interest. From their homepage: "The Marine Research Institute (MRI), established in 1965, is a government institute under the auspices of the Ministry of Fisheries. MRI conducts various marine research and provides the Ministry with scientific advice based on its research on marine resources and the environment."

I recall that you recognise the good shape that Iceland's fisheries are in - I'm sure that it's in no small part due to the MRI.

Further, 150 fin whales from a stock of more than 25,000 is still a very conservative harvest. I believe that Iceland won't issue permits to allow such a level of harvest until it has been agreed at the IWC's scientific committee following their procedures.

As for your other point, I see no problem with other nations starting to hunt whales if they so desire, so long as they co-operate with other whaling nations to ensure that the sum of their activities is sustainable.

2) Iceland started scientific whaling 3 or 4 years ago, and signalled at the time that it would eventually resume commercial whaling. Now it has happened, and still only 25 nations (mostly European ones) could be mustered together.

3) I don't find whaling activities any worse than a range of animal exploitation and management techniques employed by the same very nations that oppose whaling.

4) Enjoying the taste of beef is an unnecessary luxury. I fail to see where you are suggesting that we draw a line. My line is like this:

"unsustainable" | "sustainable"

I'm not about to be a hypocrite so long as we keep in "sustainable" territory.

5) 25 governments to me is quite insignificant, since we know that these nations are just grandstanding for their own domestic political purposes. Events at the recent ICCAT meeting confirmed this, where we saw the USA, with the backing of Canada and Norway (all 3 of which are whaling nations, although the USA is a special case), arguing for a cut in line with scientific advice, but the European Union, home to many anti-whaling nations, knocked it back.

I find it very odd that you regard whales as "innocent". No one is suggesting that they are "guilty" - the suggestion is only that they be utilised by interested parties on a sustainable basis like various other resources of which we make rational use.
-- This is David here, reposting another one of Brendan's comments from another part of the blog - I'd like to keep these discussions together, rather than scattered around in various places --

Greetings once again David.
I have already replied in another of your postings to your first set of comments that you made to my observations regarding Iceland's renewed whale hunting.
Below are my replies to your second commentary:
1. You say"...Iceland's commercial hunt will kill fewer whales than the USA, Russia and Greenland..."
Sorry David, but you fail to understand the difference between whale killing by small native village communities for local consumption and the demand by Japan and its cohorts for large scale commercial exploitation.
2. "...when supply of whale meat has increased, consumption has increased as well..."
Yes, fantastic- why not start slaughtering African apes and start putting them on the menus of European and American restaurant? I'm sure that you could create a market for jungle meat.

3. "...Resuming whaling on a sustainable basis is a perfectly rational way of developing Iceland's economy. It may not be *needed*, but..."
It certainly is not 'rational' to me. Iceland's economy is getting on fine without whale hunting.

4. "...All animals are beautiful and remarkable in their own individual way. What makes whales so special?..."
Well, when you see up close the majestic motions of a whale as it moves through the waters, then you appreciate why the creature is so special. It is truly an awesome experience that makes someone mile me think that there is a God out there after all!
5. "...The people of Alaska and Greenland don't need whale meat either - if required they could import food from other parts of the world..."
Of course, such a move would be great news for multi-national food corporations.
Some of us believe though that, with higher carbon emissions caused by ever increasing global travel amongst other reasons, there is an increased awareness of the need for growing local produce - it would make good economic sense, help local areas and lessen the overbearing clout of the big food companies.
Of course I would prefer it Inuits etc did not eat whale meat. But in their environment, the choices ahv been limited for millenia.
6. "...any of the new members to the IWC are developing nations who were in the past unable to participate because of an inequitable fee structure..."
Somehow I don't think that 'fees' are an issue! Many countries have expressed concern about the obvious blatant efforts of Japan to use its economic power on individual small nations to get them to join the IWC as its puppets.
7. "...Furthermore, the anti-whaling camp of the IWC consists of 7 land-locked European nations..."
The anti-whaling camp is led by countries such as the USA, Britain, France etc, which are certainly not land-locked!

Yours in 'disagreement',
Hi again Speedie,

1) I look at these issues from a conservation perspective. Thus I make no distinction between who is killing these whales, for what purpose - my only request is that they ensure their use of these resources is on a sustainable basis.

By the way, you can in fact buy whale blubber (muktuk) in West Greenland supermarkets, and there is also talk of them exporting their surplus whale meat because their local needs are already met.

On the other hand, I would not support the continued harvest of whale meat by peoples of the USA, Greenland, Russia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines if there comes a day when their needs exceed the productive capacity of the whale stocks that they currently rely on.

Iceland's IWC commissioner often says this, but there are two types of whaling - sustainable whaling, and unsustainable whaling. The former is totally acceptable, the latter is not.

2) The fact is that there is a demand for whale meat in Japan, because there is a culture of whale meat consumption here. Just as there is beef consumption culture in the USA, but not in India. Sure, people of India see no need to people of the USA to consume beef. I make no judgement on whether the USA's beef production is sustainable, but whale meat production in Japan is well below potential and perfectly sustainable.

3) Iceland is a sovereign nation, and whether Iceland's economy can benefit from diversification into whale product production is for them to decide, just as it is for developing nations to decide how they might expand their economies. In the case of whaling, it is a clear example of sustainable development based on naturally renewable resources and there is thus no rational basis for it to be denied.

4) Many people in India believe that cows are sacred. You have your Gods, they have theirs, and the whalers have theirs as well. It is necessary for people in different parts of the world to respect the diversity of cultural and religious beliefs.

5) Permitting whaling is just one way of helping boost local production. Whale meat based on species of great whale used to be produced in several coastal towns around Japan, but due to recent events in international fora, this is no longer the case. On the other hand, Japan has low food self-sufficiency and is reliant on places such as the USA and Australia for imported products. This reliance could be reduced to some extent if sustainable whaling was permitted once again. This would clearly be better for the environment than the status quo, even if the whale meat were imported instead of beef, as whale meat is produced in a more environmentally friendly manner.

6) Indeed some nations have dragged the names of sovereign developing nations through the mud, ignoring the fact that many of these small nations themselves utilise cetaceans for food. Perhaps it would be worth paying some respect to these nations by listen to their voices rather than simply regurgitating political motivated slander.

7) The USA itself is a whaling nation (the world's only anti-whaling whaling nation) where as France and the UK and terrible environmental records. It's pretty clear that their opposition to whaling is more about trying to take their own poor environmental records out of the spotlight than any great wisdom regarding sustainable use of natural resources. And none of this changes the fact that 7 anti-whaling nations in Europe have no coastline, yet see fit to dictate to island and coastal nations how to manage their marine living resources.

Sorry for interrupting.
As a Japanese citizen,let me give you some comments,please.

>Then the global slaughter begins in earnest.

I do not think you need to worry about this ,so far as concerned
about Japan.Japan hopes the resumption of commercial whaling but as you see,it is not
successful,and we also know whaling is not that of 30 years ago.That is why Japan observes the rules of IWC :we research the abundance of whale and in return we take whale meat.
Needless to say,if more than 75% of IWC members agree with
commercial whaling,it begins .It
does not mean the over-catching of whales,because whales are not
for only Japan.

>You can be sure too that many citizens in other countries have expressed anger to the recommencement of the slaughter.<

I do not know about the"many
citizens"of anti-whaling countries.
On the other hand,you should remember the anger of many citizens of pro-whaling countries.(you saw the scenery at IWC this year dont you?)If many citizens only mean those of anti-whaling,
I suggest you see world map again with your eyes widly opened.

> Unlike 19th century Europe, modern society doesn't need the killing of whales.<

Anata wa bureimono desu !

If this is true,you mean Japan is not one of modern society?
Sorry, we eat whale meat by killing whales ,and develope the high technology as well.Is it the wrong choice? You need not change our important policy at your will.

>we will keep the campaign going to end the slaughter of the innocents<

Sorry, this means nothing to the pro-whaling countries like Japan.
Whales are the animals which are to be eaten by some human beings like us.

Very interesting read. Thanks :)
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