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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



IWC 2006: Norway hits back

Norway has hit back at "world opinion" (sic), pointing out, as I pointed out to Chris Carter, that Norway's catch limits are:
based on theoretical guidelines for whaling agreed in 1992 by a panel of scientists at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) -- including experts from nations which signed the protest.
"The charges are baseless ... They have failed to do their homework," Norway's whaling commissioner Karsten Klepsvik told Reuters of the call for an end to whaling on Thursday by nations including France, Germany, Australia and Brazil.
"The quota is based on cautious estimates," said Klepsvik.
"Casting doubt on the integrity of our scientists goes over the limit of political criticism," he said.
Lars Walloe, a professor at Oslo university who is chief scientific advisor to the government on marine mammals, also told Reuters: "It's frightening that they make such statements."
At the same time, the Norwegians acknowledge that they, like the Japanese, believe that the RMP can be improved through the advance of science:
Improving the quota model
A model developed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is used by Norway to calculate the annual minke quota. Scientists, both Norwegian and international, are conducting work to improve the model. Preliminary analyses indicate that the current model does not meet the management objectives, it appears to be much more conservative than previously believed.

Prof. Lars Walløe, Norway's scientific advisor, gave a progress report on this work earlier this month to the annual meeting of the Norwegian Whalers' Union. Simply put, he explained, better computers make it possible to perform better simulation trials. When the model was developed in the early 1990s, computers could run such simulation trials for 100 years. Today's computers can run simulation trials for 300 years.

Another line of scientific work is DNA. As with humans, each whale has a unique DNA. Since 1997, Norwegian whalers take a tissue sample from each whale for the DNA-registry, and so far about 5,000 samples have been collected.

At the Norwegian Whalers' Union's annual meeting, Dr. Hans Julius Skaug of the Institute of Marine Research explained the scientific usefulness of DNA knowledge.

He said that with the use of DNA, it is possible to find out whether whales are related or not, and if so, how closely. This information can be used for establishing stock structures, to find out whether whales in one area are different from whales in another area or whether whales from separate stocks or groups mate with each other.

It is also possible to envisage DNA-profiles being used when calculating stock abundance estimates, which currently are based on sighting surveys.
All fabulous news for whale conservation. Those 12 nations who criticised Norway should be ashamed of themselves - this is the sort of responsible environmental management that ought to be held up as an example for the rest of the world.



Whaling FAQ

I've started an FAQ regarding whaling issues.


Rather than repeat myself every time someone asks "but aren't whales an endangered species?" I'll just pull out a pre-canned FAQ entry.

It's incredible that people who are so ignorant of whales that they do not even realise that there are multiple species see fit to declare their opposition to whaling. Being opposed is fine, but by golly, you want to make sure you actually understand the issue before taking such a hardline position. Hopefully the FAQ will help those people :) Some other people out there on the net have expressed interest in it's development as well.


IWC 2006: International embarassment Chris Carter strikes again

New Zealand Minister of Conservation Chris Carter continues to demonstrate that he is an embarassment to the New Zealand government.

In his latest effort, Carter has issued a press release criticising Norwegian catch limit increases:
"We do not know the effects this will have on whale populations. The criteria Norway used for setting the quota haven’t been properly assessed and peer reviewed by the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee."

In fact, the criteria Norway uses for setting their minke whale quota was devised by the Scientific Committee, and unaminously recommended to the IWC in 1992. The IWC also adopted the procedure as the IWC's official catch limit setting procedure in 1994.

Why doesn't Carter just drop this silly pretense that he actually has scientific reasons for opposing whaling, and stop embarrassing his government? Caught here again with his pants down, rather than shift the goal posts by making up some other childish reason to oppose the Norwegian hunt, why doesn't he just stand up and say "We the government of New Zealand oppose whaling, because many New Zealanders think whales are special"? He could then at least claim to be honest.

I've written directly to the minister informing him of his blunder (amazing that he doesn't have advisors vetting his press releases, or if he does, that they too are clumsy enough to make such awful gaffes).
I also sent a copy of the press release off to the High North Alliance folks.

The HNA is also running a story about another Carter gaffe in a press release last year. Click here and here for the two parts of the episode.

You'd think he would have learnt...



IWC 2006: Norwegian gamesmanship

One of the great ironies regarding the anti-whaling bloc's stubborn refusal to permit any level of commercial whaling is that they are rendering themselves without means to even influence the decision making processes. They are so extreme in their anti-whaling stance that Norway is forced to exercise its right to set its own catch limit, rather than a limit set by the IWC. This season they increased their limit to 1052.

Were the IWC to actually start carrying out it's stated functions and set non-zero catch limits, Norway would no doubt comply with the change in Schedule, and their whalers would then be only be allowed to catch as many whales as set by the IWC. The anti-whaling nations might at least be able to "save" some number of whales in that case. Yet such a change will only come about if countries opposed to whaling made a greater effort to find a compromise within the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Anti-whaling nations are failing to contribute to whale conservation efforts by taking their uncompromising extreme protectionist stance.



IWC 2006: "World opinion" and Norwegian whaling

A small group of 12 largely anglo-saxon nations (UK, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, The Czech Republic, France, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain) decided to criticise Norway.

Interesting to note:
1) The article notes that the timing of the criticism was planned to align with the beginning of the Norwegian hunting season. Why the delay? If you are asking the Norwegians not to kill whales, it makes far more sense to do it prior to the commencement of the season - not after it. The reason is that The move comes two weeks before British local elections in which the main parties are vying to demonstrate their environmental credentials.

2) Despite the delay allowing plenty of time to gather signatures, only 12 nations were involved in the criticism. Of those, the Czech Republic doesn't have a coastline. Where is the "world opinion" against whaling? 12 nations is a piddling minority, and furthermore, down on a similar protest towards Japan earlier this year which garnered higher levels of support (17 nations).

UPDATE [4th June]:
A late addition to this story, but the IWMC noted in it's monthly Sustainable eNews newsletter that:
The United States opted against joining the demarche because the text of the letter contained factual errors.



IWC 2006: Tonga thumbs nose at NZ and Greenpeace

Despite demands from NZ and Greenpeace to join the IWC, Tonga is keeping out of the tussle, stating that it's too political, and that Tonga sits in the middle.

Good for Tonga. But if there are a significant number of Tongans who wish to substitute mutton for whalemeat, they'd ultimately be better off taking whales under the IWC banner than as outsiders - once the IWC has been normalised of course. One suspects their real reason for not joining is politics as well however - as they mention, there are Tongas on both sides of the fence, and so by not getting involved they are less likely to face domestic criticism for jumping one way or the other.

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IWC 2006: Where is the Australian whale research?

Despite a vociferous pronouncement earlier this year from Australian Minister Ian Campbell, which was widely reported throughout the western media, it appears that the results of the research are still yet to be found.

I certainly went looking for them myself, sent an email asking where I might find it (never got a response).

It's seems that Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research hasn't seen them either:
Japan's whale researchers say they are looking forward to assessing an Australian study into whale research because they have heard only rhetoric and bluster from Environment Minister Ian Campbell.

"We haven't seen any data or results yet, but we are hoping they will complement our research findings to increase our understanding of the Antarctic ecosystem and to develop an improved regime for managing commercial whaling," said Dr Hiroshi Hatanaka, director-general of Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR).

Canberra released the study late last month that, it said, proved there was no justification for countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland to kill whales for scientific research.

Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division completed the aims set out in Japan's scientific whaling program without having to kill a single whale.

The research will be presented to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June by Senator Campbell.

But the ICR - a privately owned, non-profit whale research centre in Tokyo authorised by the Japanese government - said Australia's claim that it could reproduce Japan's results using non-lethal methods was simply not the case.

"Even where they have been collecting data similar to some aspects of the non-lethal components of our research program, they have not had the extensive coverage or repetitive observations needed to detect trends," Dr Hatanaka said.

"It is unfortunate that Australia deliberately mixes the science with political advocacy.

"So far, all we have heard is the rhetoric and political blustering of Senator Campbell. I hope that both the findings from our research and Australia's research can be dealt with on a more rational and scientific basis at the upcoming meeting of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission," he said in a statement.

Japanese vessels returned to the north-western port of Kanazawa from Antarctica this weekend after more than five months away, with Dr Hatanaka saying their research had been successful and all scientific objectives had been met.
One gets the distinct impression that the research that the Australian group has done has been vastly overstated by their excitable Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell.

The fact that the research is only going to be presented at a time that coincides with the politically charged IWC meeting seems to indicate that it's being promoted for use as a political tool, rather than a serious piece of research for scientific consumption. We'll see though - I'm assuming that Campbell will not be presenting the research himself as the article suggests, but will have Australian scientific representatives submit it to the IWC's Scientific Commitee meeting prior to the main IWC gathering.

There are other grounds for being suspicious about Campbell's grand pronouncements. He seems confused about it for a start. He claimed on radio that the study was the "culmination of 10 years of work" yet in his press release on the previous day stated that it was a "10-week Australian survey".

Which is it Ian? 10 years or 10 weeks?

He also states that:
“I will be taking this information to the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in St Kitts and Nevis in June and making it very clear that under no circumstances can this continued slaughter of whales in the name of ‘science’ be justified,”
Campbell and Australia will be going way out on a limb there, as just a little over a month ago the IWC held an intersessional RMS working group meeting, at which the issue of a "code of conduct" for scientific research permits was under discussion. The fact that a code is up for discussion at all is evidence enough that the majority of IWC signatories do believe that lethal research has legitimate purposes (as they should, given their acceptance of the ICRW). The Chair's Report from the meeting is available at the IWC's home page.

But finally to wrap it all up, despite Australia's wonderful new non-lethal research programmes that are supposed to tell the Japanese everything they want to know without killing a single whale...
"Enormous uncertainty remains about how many whales, particularly minke whales, are in the Southern Ocean because estimating the numbers is very difficult."
Well how about that. All that research, and yet they still can't provide reliable information about how many minke whales there are - numbers of whales merely being an important piece of information required for setting sustainable commercial catch limits. Does Senator Campbell seriously think that this will quench the ICR's thirst for knowledge of whale stocks?

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IWC 2006: Latest Greenpeace propaganda

Greenpeace's Shane Rattenbury is cranking up his propaganda engine again.

1) His press release says the JARPA II team brought back "nearly 1000 dead whales". The actual figure was 863.

Why does he choose to round the true figures up by more than a whopping 15% to 1000? Why not stop at the nearest hundred and call it 900? What is Greenpeace's motive in this misleading manipulation of figures? Does he fear that numbers in the simple hundreds will not have the same psychological impact on those he appeals to for donations? Or does he believe that 137 whales one-way-or-the-other is nothing when you're talking about abundant whale stocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands?
Just imagine Greenpeace's reaction were the Institute of Cetacean Research had released a press statement saying "we took, oh you know, around 700 or so whales"!

2) Shane Rattenbury asks what the Japanese tax payers believe they are getting for their money.
Perhaps Greenpeace supporters may be asking themselves the same thing, after their donation money didn't save a single whale, but did result in increased time-to-deaths for the whales that were killed while Greenpeace was employing their obstruction tactics.
What the Japanese tax payers do get for their money is a government refusing to cave to irrational foreign NGO groups, and throw out the sound principle of sustainable use, which would otherwise set a bad precendent for environmental management for years to come.
That's pretty good value for money, and I'm certainly happy that I'm contributing my yen taxes to that rather than supporting Greenpeace's inhumane behaviour, even though I do have no choice in the matter.

3) "The international community has condemned the research as fake."
Tired old lies, are tired old lies no matter how often they are repeated.
The only community that has condemned the research as fake is the western environmental movement and their shill scientists.
On the other hand, the IWC points out on its webpage that the IWC Scientific Commitee reviewed the JARPA research at it's half-way point in 1997 and noted that the research had the potential to improve the IWC's Revised Management Procedure for setting commercial catch limits.
If Shane Rattenbury's "international community" was correct in its condemnation of the research, he might like to think about why his team has failed to convince the IWC of their case by now.

4) "The whale hunt is bankrupt on all counts: financially, morally, ecologically and scientifically."
Shane Rattenbury is the master of his propaganda.



IWC 2006: JARPA II returns to port

The Institute of Cetacean Research reports that the JARPA II research fleet has returned to Japan.

From the ICR website (roughly translating):

Approximately 5000 Minke whales, 3450 Humpback whales, 930 Fin whales, 82 Southern Right whales, 48 Blue whales and 3 Sei whales were sighted as part of the non-lethal portion of the research.

853 Minke whales were taken as samples in the lethal portion. The sample size had been set at 850+/- 10%, or 765 - 935, so the number taken was as planned.
10 Fin whales were also taken, as planned.

Biopsy samples were taken from 5 Blue whales, 9 Fin whales, 1 Sei whale, 13 Humpback whales, and 15 Minke whales.

Brief summary of some results todate:

Now, readers may recall that earlier this year Greenpeace's obstruction tactics were questioned, on the grounds that those actions led to increased time-to-deaths for the whales.

Greenpeace's Shane Rattenbury explained the through their obstruction tactics, they hoped that they could ensure that it took a longer amount of time for each whale to be taken, thus preventing the JARPA II research vessels from taking their target sample size of 850 whales, thus "Saving Whales".

Well, it didn't work, did it. But it did have the side effect of leading to a longer, more painful death for those whales struck at the time of Greenpeace's obstruction.

The money question is now whether Greenpeace will in future continue to persist with their tactic of obstruction, despite the lesson that it achieves nothing other than additional pain for the whales.

I suspect that they will continue with the tactic, because they care more about their fancy video footage than they do about their purported cause.

I can but wait for Greenpeace to prove me wrong.


I have just posted the following to the Greenpeace website:


I saw today that the JARPA II research fleet has returned to port in Japan, having taking their planned 850 minke whales (853 in the end), and 10 fin whales.

I wanted to ask what Greenpeace's plans are with respect to putting the inflatables in between the whales and the harpoons.

From Shane Rattenbury's comments in the media, it appears that the idea behind this was to obstruct the whaling operation as much as possible, so that they would not be able to kill quite as many whales. It seems that ultimately, these obstruction tactics haven't worked.

My question is whether Greenpeace will continue to persist with this tactic in future?

What I read seems to indicate that the harpooners are unable to take a clean shot when Greenpeace protestors are obstructing them, which contributed to an increase in the time-to-deaths for whales. Shane Rattenbury mentioned himself in the media that whales often die instantaneously. He was quoted in the media when the incident with the Greenpeace protestor getting tipped into the water by the harpoon line. He said that, had the whale been still alive, the situation could have become even more dangerous for the protestors. So, lucky for the protestors that the whale died instantaneously, but also lucky for the whale that it suffered an instantaneous death.

Given that Greenpeace's obstruction tactics may lead the harpooners to take less than optimal shots, potentially leading to increased time-to-deaths for the whales, I would urge Greenpeace protestors to not obstruct the harpooners in this manner in future. I for one would certainly be very angry with Greenpeace if this request were not heeded. The Japanese whalers have proved this year that they will take their whales, regardless of Greenpeace's obstruction tactics.

I am wondering whether the IWC's humane killing working group may criticise Greenpeace's actions, and perhaps the IWC might even issue a resolution against such behaviour in future. Even if they don't, please think about the whales that are going to die, when you execute your protest plans for future years. Greenpeace protestors have a responsibility to ensure that their actions do not increase suffering, as appears to have been the case this year.

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