.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



Rodney Hide on Jeanette Fitzsimmons

Rodney Hide has made an art form of mocking NZ Greens leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons (who incidently kindly responded to a suggestion from me about how the Greens might improve their environmental policy - it was quite an interesting response actually, but I'll save it for another time)

Fitzsimmons was recently caught with her pants down when her and her husband were told off for lighting a fire in unsuitable conditions. Green!? Hohoho!

This time Rodney has picked a nice quote from a speech of hers:
Think Global Act Local is about taking care of our own piece of the planet and managing our own activities using what we now know about the whole system. It empowers us to act more thoughtfully and more effectively. It requires us to ask, “what would be the effect of 6 billion people doing what I am doing now?
Says Rodney:
"So what would happen if 6 billion people all lit a fire in high winds when a fire ban is on?"
But, like so many "environmentalists", at least her heart is in the right place.



IWC 2006: Greenpeace's anti-science criticisms

This blog's resident European armchair environmentalist regurgitated some comments which are regularly bandied about by Greenpeace and their ilk (see John Frizell's response to me for an example), and it's worth addressing them in detail once and for all here.
"In the 31 years prior to the introduction of the commercial whaling moratorium, only 840 whales were killed globally by Japan for scientific research."
It's widely accepted that there was a lack of scientific knowledge prior to the introduction of the moratorium, and the problems this caused for whale management. Despite the ICRW stating that ammendments to the Schedule be based on scientific findings, this wasn't the case, and scientific advice was (as it is now) regularly ignored.

The IWC/SC had called for more research in 1972 when a 10 year moratorium was first proposed:

"By consensus the Scientific Committee agreed that a blanket moratorium could not be justified scientifically. The Scientific Committee ... recommended an expanded whale research program in place of a blanket moratorium ."

This expanded whale research program didn't happen, however.

The IWC's New Management Procedure (NMP) that was devised around that time was also scraped eventually as (amongst other reasons) it wasn't specific about the standards of data it required for implementation.

Post moratorium, the IWC/SC committed itself to it's "comprehensive assessment" of whale stocks, and the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) was devised. The RMP addressed the flaws of the NMP and, as I've noted before, not only did the entire scientific committee recommend it, but the politicians of the IWC agreed to adopt it in 1994.

As it was prior to the moratorium, the IWC/SC is still ignored today (the RMP still hasn't been implemented 11 years later), but now the IWC ignores it's Scientific Committee in favour of the vociferous anti-science NGO groups instead. This suggests that a swing back to the center can't be far off.

Ideally politicians shouldn't be entrusted to make these decisions at all. They have no incentive to vote in accordance with science, and the powerful NGO groups through their high profile PR campaigns make sure that they have reason not to.
More than 6,800 Antarctic Minke Whales have already been killed in Antarctic waters under the 18 years of the Japanese Whale Research Programme.
And for their long term commitment to improvement of scientific knowledge, Japan ought to be commended. More emphasis must be placed on science in the future of whale management at the IWC.

Greenpeace however like to claim that the research is all an elaborate sham. Yet this claim isn't supported by the IWC Scientific Commitee. The IWC's own homepage notes that in a review of the programme at it's halfway point the IWC/SC had this to say of the Japanese research:

"The results of the JARPA programme, while not required for management under the RMP, have the potential to improve it in the following ways: (1) reductions in the current set of plausible scenarios considered in Implementation Simulation Trials; and (2) identification of new scenarios to which future Implementation Simulation Trials will have to he developed (e.g. the temporal component of stock structure). The results of analyses of JARPA data could be used in this way perhaps to increase the allowed catch of minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere, without increasing the depletion risk above the level indicated by the existing Implementation Simulation Trials of the RMP for these minke whales."

This is perfectly in line with the goals of the ICRW, which are to
Of course, Greenpeace never mentions this.

Instead they selectively extract just 7 words reading "not required for management under the RMP", criticising the research on these grounds - yet that is not the point of the research. Japan hopes to improve scientific knowledge even further, so that an even better management procedure can in future be possible. As Dr Doug Butterworth has noted, the RMP is

"so risk averse that the only real scientific basis for questioning its immediate implementation is that it is so conservative that it will waste much of a potential harvest."

All ICRW signatories should therefore be doing what they can to contribute to improved scientific knowledge such that the deficiencies of the RMP may too be addressed. Ironically while Japan's action are fully in line with the goals of the ICRW, it is Japan that is the target of criticism!

This is the difficulty in the whaling debate - Greenpeace's aim is to ban whaling, where as Japan's aims remain consistent with the goals of the ICRW - conservation of whale stocks while making for the development of the whaling industry.

Greenpeace's criticism is thus clearly not in terms of the applicability of Japan's research to the goals of the ICRW, but of the relevance of Japan's research to Greenpeace's ideals. Naturally Greenpeace would argue against further research, as Greenpeace's ideal is for there to exist as much scientific uncertainty regarding whale stocks as possible.



Elephant management

A very interesting read about elephant numbers in South Africa.
If South Africa culls its elephants, it will bring down the wrath of armchair conservationists in Europe and America who have threatened to discourage tourism to any country that kills elephants.
Sounds familiar.
Such overseas sentiment has tended to dictate wildlife management decisions in Africa and is causing resentment among those who work in overstocked reserves.
One of the options for management being considered:
Laissez-faire: This "do-nothing policy" conflicts with the management-for-biodiversity option. Elephants tend to demolish other animals' habitats, which leads to losses of other species.
The GRAA believes that the adoption of a "do-nothing" policy "should be a considered management decision which fully recognises the risks to biodiversity".
The GRAA statement says it will support the final decisions, provided they are in the interests of sound holistic ecosystem conservation.
This is another interesting issue to follow.



IWC 2006: "World Opinion"

17 anti-whaling countries sent a message of protest to Japan today.

So much for "world opinion". There are 66 member nations in the IWC these days - the anti-whaling camp has a simple majority there - but even still only 17 countries participated in this protest.

Is this supposed to be the "world opinion" against whaling? If so, why is it so sparse and seemingly disorganized?

The 17 nations were:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom

Looking at the list of nations we can see that:
- There are 3 Central / South American nations
- There are 2 Australasian nations
- There are 12 West European nations

- There are no North-american nations
- There are no Asian nations
- There are no African nations
- There are no Pacific Island nations

"World Opinion"?

If you believe that the world consists of predominately white european nations and their colonies, maybe, otherwise this really does look like a "our culture versus your culture" kind of list.

Interesting to note that Luxembourg doesn't even has a coastline. Indeed, there are 8 nations at the IWC that do not have a coastline. 7 of them vote against whaling. Were those nations not members of the IWC, the anti-whaling bloc at the IWC would be reduced to a minority.



IWC 2006: Ian Campbell tells it like it is

Quite a start to the year - first IWC 56's "Most tiresome speaker", the didactic Sir Geoffrey Palmer fronted up with an admission that Japan's research activities are legal.

This time from across the Tasman, Ian Campbell has come out with a surprisingly and uncharacteristically common sense statement that:
"whaling will come to an end when the people of Norway and the people of Japan tell their governments unequivocally that the slaughter of whales - that the cold-blooded destruction of whales - needs to come to an end"
Senator Campbell's language has always been full of guffaws and misleading descriptions, but on this occasion what he says has a strong semblance of good sense to it - it is the whaling peoples of the world that will decide if and when they bring their activities to an end.

Putting oneself in a whale eating man or woman's shoes, I myself can state with absolute certainty that Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd aren't illuminating anything to me that would make me think that the whaling activity had passed its used by date. Quite the reverse in fact - these protest groups are showing only that they have already served whatever useful purpose that they may have had, and it's time that they were gone:
"Senator Campbell warned if protests were not sensible, activists risked undoing Australia's work against whaling."

But don't Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd recognize this themselves? Surely they can't believe their actions are contributing constructively to the debate. If that is the case, what is their motivation for behaving in the manner that they are? Is it perhaps that their intended audience is in fact not the world's whaling communities, but a different market?

Labels: ,



IWC 2006: Greenpeace actions leading to increased time-to-deaths

The IWC has a working group on whale killing methods. Dr Ray Gambell OBE has explained that the goal of the working group is to study methods of improving the humaneness of whaling operations, with the agreed technique to be ensuring that whales are killed as swiftly as possible, instantaneously being the ideal result.

With explosive tipped harpoons, time-to-death statistics show that in both the Norwegian commercial hunt and the Japanese research hunt, the majority of whale struck die instantaneously.

However the Institute of Cetacean Research has noted that it is observing increased time-to-deaths this year as a result of protester interference, preventing the harpooners from taking as clear, clean shots as they would usually be able.

Greenpeace too admits that it is their goal to ensure that each whale death takes as long as possible:

Mr Rattenbury said Greenpeace was achieving results.

"It's certainly our intention to protect as many whales as possible, and we are working on the theory that so long as it takes them even longer to kill a whale, they are not killing another one," he said.

"It has been our focus and our strategy to slow them down as much as we can"

It's quite remarkable that Greenpeace, themselves directly contributing to increased time-to-deaths for the whales being hunted, sees fit to broadcast the bloody footage around the globe, criticising how slow the process was.

On this basis it is clear that Greenpeace doesn't care about animal welfare in terms of humane killing.

When the current session of the research programme concludes, if Japan has still taken it's targeted population sample of 850 +/- 10% minke whales, the international community would be quite right to question the humaneness of Greenpeace's protesting techniques.

Indeed, even if they do succeed in obstructing the research programme to a degree, their supporters must surely be asking themselves:
"What is more important? Preventing the death of some number of whales, or ensuring that those that are killed are killed as humanely as possible?"
I personally suspect that Greenpeace is going to suffer quite a backlash from Animal Rights advocates for their efforts, as their only success currently appears to be a gory propaganda campaign.

UPDATE [06/01/15]
Further information to hand

Here's Mr Rattenbury again, after a protestor was knocked off a Greenpeace inflatable after getting caught in the rope attached to a harpoon:
"It [the harpoon] struck the whale and fortunately it died immediately."
But then he goes on to reveal why he believes it was fortunate:
"We have seen some kills that go on for a long time, with the whale thrashing about, in which case the whole boat would have capsized."
Just when you thought they might spare a thought for the whales, it turns out they're just worried about their own self-preservation.

UPDATE [06/01/16]
Even more information to hand
"Shane Rattenbury from Greenpeace says the activists follow the practice of moving aside once a whale had been hit to allow the harpoonist to finish the kill."
Yet again Rattenbury displays his irresponsible attitude. The goal is for the whale to die instantaneously, not anything less. The harpoonist's job should ideally be done as soon as the harpoon has been released, not after Greenpeace protestors have been good enough to get out of the way. The harpoonists aren't there to oblige Greenpeace protestors with nice camera shots of them between the harpoons and the whales, they are there to kill the whales cleanly and swiftly.

Labels: , ,


IWC 2006: Anti-whalers "don't have a legal leg to stand on"

NewstalkZB reports:
The Government does not have a legal leg to stand on in the fight against whaling in the Southern Ocean, according to New Zealand's representative at the International Whaling Commission.

There has been pressure for a political response, as conflict between conservationists and Japanese whalers escalate.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer says under international law Japan is not doing anything wrong and there is no legal argument New Zealand could use to stop the whaling.

He says he has been looking at the legal situation for months, but New Zealand's only recourse is diplomatic action to change international law.

Sir Geoffrey says the Southern Ocean whales are targeted because they are more prolific and healthier than those in the Northern Ocean.

Sir Geoff is to be congratulated for this admission, but his response, to seek to change international law, is questionable on two counts.

1) To modify the content of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), all signatories must agree to do so, and this is only fair - all parties signed the ICRW in good fatih.

Of course, clearly those nations that signed the ICRW believing in it's dual goals of whale stock conservation and optimal use of whale resources will never agree to any change in the rules that would hinder the IWC from acheiving those goals.

Thus, there is no way in the world that Sir Geoff and his comrades will achieve a law change that prevented any nation from it's whaling rights under the ICRW.

2) To seek to change rules that one no longer agrees with is akin to a baby screaming when it isn't able to have things it's own way. The correct and honourable action, if New Zealand no longer agrees with the rules, is to withdraw from the Convention:

Article XI

Any Contracting Government may withdraw from this Convention on 30th June, of any year by giving notice on or before 1st January, of the same year to the depository Government, which upon receipt of such a notice shall at once communicate it to the other Contracting Governments.

My personal preference is not that New Zealand's government takes this withdrawal action, but instead both accepts the text of the Convention and seeks to work constructively together with other signatories to ensure that the ICRW goals of both whale consenservation and the development of whaling industry can be met.

Would New Zealand not be showing the international community what a fine leader it were, were it to take such honourable actions?

[UPDATE 06/01/16]: I've found a direct quote from Sir Geoffrey:

New Zealand's commissioner to the International Whaling Commission, former prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, said the annual slaughter of whales, although reprehensible, was not illegal.

"We have been looking at the legal theories that are available against the Japanese for some months ... and there is no legal theory that is available that can prevent, in our view, the Japanese from doing what they are doing," Sir Geoffrey said.

"A sovereign government cannot undertake legal action unless it has a good chance of success."

A spokeswoman for Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell also ruled out legal action.

[UPDATE 06/01/17]: Even more words from Palmer on the issue.

His suggestion is that Article VIII needs to be removed from the treaty - no mention yet of what provisions he thinks should be there in it's place. Not that it matters. Sooner or later Palmer is going to come to the realization that governments that do not agree with international agreements should exercise their rights to withdraw from them. Trying to skuttle them simply will not work.

Labels: , ,



Response to Greenpeace's John Frizell

John Frizell recently took the time to respond to comments I posted here on my blog, after having difficulties with the submission process on the Greenpeace site. I'd firstly offer my thanks to the good people who run the Greenpeace web blog for their sincere handling of the technical problems.

I'd like to take the opportunity now to comment on Mr. Frizell's response.

1) Greenpeace's mischaracterization of Article VIII as a "loophole"

Frizell states that Greenpeace's reasoning for declaring research whaling to be a loophole is because Article VIII was not intended to allow "an entire national whaling industry to be based on it".

This was an interesting response in that the reason why the only whaling Japan conducts today is under scientific permit is due to the global moratorium on commercial whaling that took effect in 1986. Given that the goals of the ICRW were to both see cooperation amongst nations to conserve stocks of great whales and make for whaling industry, the drafters and original signatories of the ICRW would certainly never have forseen that an indefinite moratorium on all whaling might in future be imposed, making the current situation what it is. Thus, while from the point of view of Greenpeace (and other organizations that oppose whaling) Article VIII of the ICRW might be described as "an inconvenience" or "an annoyance", it most certainly does not meet the standard criteria of "a loophole". In this regard, I would suggest to Greenpeace that they drop this language, as it could mislead people as to the true nature of Article VIII.

2) Internationally renowned scientists and lethal research

Frizell also goes on to question the credentials of Dr. Ray Gambell, former secretary of the IWC, failing to acknowledge that, having served more than 2 decades in that position with 37 years total involvement with the organization, he is most certainly a dependable source when it comes to interpretation of the IWC's convention and the rules under which they operate.
Those unfamiliar with Dr. Gambell may be interested to note that in addition to his roles at the IWC,
Indeed, one wonders if Greenpeace could tell us of a source more uniquely equipped to judge such matters as the legality of research whaling.

But its certainly not just the former secretary to the IWC who affirms the legality and necessity of lethal research to obtain the information that the Japanese are seeking. "Martin Cawthorn is a scientist, writer and member of the IWC scientific committee in Plimmerton, a seaside village just outside New Zealand's capital city. While some New Zealanders argue that the Japanese can do their scientific research from genetic sampling, he says, they "would change or modify their opinion" if they had any idea how difficult it is to gather such information in the Antarctic region."
Before Mr Frizell questions Martin Cawthorn's credentials as well, I would note that he has:
Given all of this, I have to respectfully note that I can not accept Frizell's assurances that there are no cetacean scientists in the world who support Japan's research programmes.

3) Sustainability of whaling

Frizell then (quite rightly) states that the question at the heart of the issue is whether or not sustainable whaling is possible. Frizell suggests a few recent episodes from history are sufficient proof that the answer to the question is no. Whaling history does include quite a catalog of mistakes, but history can certainly not be considered a proof that sustainable whaling is not possible. Indeed, even if Frizell and the Greenpeace organization believe that to be the case, the majority of the IWC contracting governments certainly do not:
For readers who are unaware, "the rmp is the scientific element of an overall [whaling] plan. Key elements include (1) being stock-specific rather than species-specific, (2) requiring regular systematic surveys to determine abundance if commercial whaling is to continue, (3) incorporating uncertainty in a risk-averse manner, and (4) attempting to make the quota-setting process as objective as possible." The IWC's scientific committee developed the RMP, and unanimously recommended it to the IWC. This is quite remarkable considering "that the majority of the Scientific Committee come from anti-whaling countries and that some are affiliated with anti-whaling organizations".

Doug Butterworth, a scientist from South Africa and member of the IWC Scientific Committee has also noted: "From the scientific side, the RMP has been more thoroughly researched and tested than any comparable marine resource management system worldwide. Its own requirement for regular sighting surveys, as well as the regular review process associated with its implementation for any species and region, ensures adequate monitoring. It is so risk averse that the only real scientific basis for questioning its immediate implementation is that it is so conservative that it will waste much of a potential harvest."

Thus, from a scientific perspective, I again respectfully find myself questioning Frizell's assertions that sustainable whaling is not possible, as opposed to having just been botched on certain previous mis-attempts, notably by those whalers seeking oil.

4) Sanctuaries and the global commercial whaling moratorium

Frizell notes that the ICR is conducting research in an area that has been designated as a whale sanctuary. This is certainly the case today, but in future the sanctuary, and at least the global commercial whaling moratorium, will likely be overturned as these instruments together currently prevent the IWC from achieving it's goals of both whale stock conservation as well as the orderly development of whaling industry. One also has to note that from conservation and scientific perspectives the creation of the sanctuary in the southern ocean when a global commercial whaling moratorium was already in place, has served little if any purpose.

5) Greenpeace's opposition to whaling globally

Frizell then comments that Greenpeace has opposed whaling by a number of nations, and that whaling is not about culture. As should be evident from the above, the whaling controversy is certainly not about science anymore - but not about culture? One wonders why it is then that Greenpeace has questioned the notion that whale consumption is a part of Japanese culture, for example. Whale consumption culture in Japan is just as much a part of Japanese culture, as is the minority Maori culture to New Zealand culture. In other parts of the world such as Northern Alaska, people have been sustainably harvesting whales for food and feeding their community for 3000 years. The USA has also chosen to respect this minority culture. Furthermore, one has to wonder why Greenpeace does not employ similar tactics to obstruct whaling operations conducted by other nations (Norway's commercial hunt for example) as are currently being employed in the Southern Ocean.

6) The lack of respect for international agreements

Frizell concludes by noting that the IWC with a slim anti-whaling majority passed a resolution urging against the JARPA II proposal, stating that those anti-whaling nations find such opposition compatible with their IWC membership. Whether those nations wish to believe their voting patterns are consistent with their membership is one thing - over the years the New Zealand and Australian governments in particular have publicly stated their opposition to any sort of whaling, whatsoever. One has to question the judgement of any government who believes that this stance is in any way consistent with an International agreement that has a clear purpose to make for the orderly development of whaling industry.

The current situation at the IWC can be likened to a ship at a port set to sail for Whaling City. All the sailors fully understand at the outset that the destination is Whaling City. After setting sail, a certain number of the sailors decide that they do not wish to go to Whaling City any longer. Instead of getting off the ship at the nearest port and honourably leaving the remaining crew members to reach their goal, they attempt to prevent them from continuing on to the goal agreed to at the outset.

This behaviour on the part of the anti-whaling contracting governments is an international disgrace bearing similarity to mutiny. One fears that it sets a terrible precedent for the future of other international agreements on global environment and conservation issues.



Censored by Greenpeace

Are Greenpeace trying to stop free speech?

[UPDATED: 06/01/03] No, apparently they are not, they are just preparing a response to the points that I outlined below, and of course I humbly look forward to seeing it. See the comments attached below.

[UPDATED: 06/01/05] Greenpeace have posted their response, and I will be taking them up on the offer of responding further, within the next few days :-)

[UPDATED: 06/01/10] I have posted further comments in response.

Background: I tried to post a comment to Greenpeace's blog about their "ocean defenders". Upon submission I received a message indicating:

Comment Submission Error

Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:

Your comment was denied for questionable content.

Yeah right! So here is my entry reproduced in full:

Why does Greenpeace claim that research whaling is a "loophole", when it's explicitly stated in Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling [1] as being permitted?

How can it be a "loophole" when Japan (and Iceland too) is doing precisely what Article VIII says?
Internationally reknowned cetacean scientists have also noted that the Japanese are doing nothing illegal whatsoever [2]

So where does Greenpeace get their legal advice?

Greenpeace also claims that the research whaling is "for profit". This is despite the fact that the proceeds from whale meat sales amount to less than the total cost of the reesarch programmes. The Japanese Government subsidises the difference. In other words, the research programmes have been running at a financial loss for the past 20 years of research. The Japanese also set the research catch limit themselves. If what Greenpeace says were true, they would have set the catch limits much higher so that they could make a financial profit. But they have not done so. So it seems that what Greenpeace says isn't true at all.
The ultimate goal of whaling is of course to put whale meat on tables, but this research programme is clearly just the forerunner to that - gathering better scientific information so that when the time comes commercial catch limits can be set based on the best possible scientific information. This is perfectly responsible, and this concept is applied to fisheries by nations such as New Zealand.

Furthermore, in 20 years of research programmes, the Japanese haven't depleted or even made a significant dent in the size of the Antarctic minke population. This is clearly a sustainable activity, even if you do want to believe that the research programmes aren't legit.

Also with regard to the humpback stock, the Japanese are planning to take a very low number for research purposes in coming years. Again though, the humpback stocks appear to be rebounding nicely from mass overhunting by mainly Australia in the 1960's (Australia killed 1461 humpbacks in the 1961 season alone, clearly an unsustainable number at that time [3]) The humpback stock that migrates past Australia each year is now said to be booming at rates of 10% per annum. The Japanese quota is maybe 50 or so, which doesn't amount to even a single percentage. That is, even with Japanese hunting, the stock would continue to "boom", although at a very marginally lower rate.

Why does Greenpeace never report such details as this? I think most people would have no problem with whaling if they knew that it could be sustainable, because most people are fair and can respect different cultures.

So what is wrong with whaling? Nations such as the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand have all signed the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. They all agreed to provisions such as those in Article VIII, which expressly permit research whaling, and the convention as a whole. The purpose of which is to make for the conservation of whales stocks as well as make for sustainable whaling industry. If those nations disagreed with whaling in principle, surely they would have withdrawn from the ICRW by now, as is their right (see Article XI of the convention).

So why does Greenpeace think whales should not be hunted?

[1] ICRW Convention text
[2] Ray Gambell at the BBC
[3] Humpback catch takes from 1961


June 2004   July 2004   August 2004   September 2004   October 2004   November 2004   December 2004   January 2005   March 2005   April 2005   May 2005   June 2005   July 2005   August 2005   September 2005   October 2005   November 2005   December 2005   January 2006   February 2006   March 2006   April 2006   May 2006   June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   January 2010   February 2010   April 2010   May 2010   June 2010   July 2010   August 2010   September 2010   February 2011   March 2011   May 2013   June 2013  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?