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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



Iwashi-yaki, the "sardine whale", DHA and EPA

Last night I dropped by a tiny local restaurant that has reasonably priced set meals. On the special menu was "iwashi-yaki".

Iwashi is a type of fish, which dictionaries seems to translate into either "sardine" or "anchovy". I had it once before, and having enjoyed on the previous opportunity, took up the chance once again.

650 yen - Tonsui (rice and miso soup also included)

As you can see from the picture, it's a small fish, apparently varying between 10 and 20 cms in length, and has long been a regular on Japanese menus. Lately however the prices are somewhat high and I've not seen it around so much.

It's also a really nice fish to eat as the bones are thin enough that you can just chew them down - and the fish itself tastes great. I prefer it to "samma" (saury).

Here's what was left of the fish once I was done:

Iwashi is said to be very nutritious, and packed with DHA and EPA.

The Japanese name for the Sei Whale, which the ICR includes in the lethal component of it's JARPN II research programme, is in fact "iwashi kujira", or "sardine whale". No need to guess where it got the name from.

JARPN II research is investigating (again for those literate in Japanese: here) fish consumption by this "sardine whale", the common minke and Bryde's whale, which all are apparently known to include types of iwashi amongst their prey species.

* * *

DHA hit the news headlines a few years ago when a British nutritionist, Michael Crawford, suggested that kids in Japan have higher levels of intelligence because they eat fish. I cannot confirm or deny higher intelligence, but it's probably true that they do eat more fish than I did back home as a kid.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) are omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids. Apparently our bodies don't produce these for us, and the best way to get an intake is through eating fish, which is not a typical part of the western diet, hence Crawford's comments.

The whale meat marketing company, Geishoku Labo, is also using the DHA & EPA health angle (for those literate in Japanese: here), as whale meat is also known to be rich in these healthy acids, yet low in those nastier saturated fatty acids that aren't so good for us.

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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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Kujira kushiage

A 19 year old staff member at my favourite local bar recently recommended me another local establishment - a kushiage (deep fried goodies on a skewer) joint about 5 or so minutes further down the road. I didn't remember ever eating at a kushiage restaurant before, so was keen to give it a try.

Other bar patrons apparently visit this joint quite regularly, and a couple of Friday night's ago, another regular, Shima-chan was also up for it so we trotted off down the street to have ourselves a feed. When we arrived inside I found the place half occupied by what looked to be uni student age people maybe in their very early 20's. Maybe seating for 20-25 people in all. Very much a young person's establishment, in the same mold as much of the rest of this town. Still in our 20's ourselves, we weren't too out of place, and Shima-chan knows the guy who was running the place on the night, being a regular here as well.

One of the items on the menu was (oh you guessed it!) "whale". Pictured here with hand-drawn graphic and all, selling like pretty much everything else - cheap at 150 yen - this joint is likely priced at the student market I figure.
There was no sign of the Japanese nationalism that is apparently supposed to be behind the urge to eat whale meat amongst this crowd. At kujira-ya in Shibuya, where they have what seems to be pretty classy whale meat cuisine, you usually find yourself sitting across from Japanese who look rather well-to-do, with fewer younger people. There's probably a level of truth in what they say about the younger generation not having developed the same taste for the meat as their parents, but I wonder how much the role of price plays here.

Anyway, back at the kushiage joint, I tried several items on the menu including the whale (which didn't really taste like the whale I have had before), and found the menu on the whole wasn't much to my liking - but when you're paying 150 yen per item I figure that's to be expected.

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An extract from "Globalisation with equity report"

Here is a report at the Precautionary Principle Project homepage from a WSSD related event:
A round table discussion on the role of the precautionary principle in natural resource management was held at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, August 2002. The main focus was the perspective of developing countries
A summary of a presentation by South African scientist Doug Butterworth is included:
Following a brief outline of the PP's history and application in the context of fisheries, Doug Butterworth (University of Cape Town) looked at what action should be taken in cases of uncertainty. He emphasised that the recommended catch should not be based on the best estimates of sustainable yield alone, but should take the level of uncertainty into account. The greater the uncertainty the lower the recommended catch should be. This is the basic idea of the precautionary approach and it is incorporated into the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. But in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) it is stated that in cases of uncertainty, Parties should act "in the best interest of the conversation of the species". In theory, applying this rule would always result in the worst-case scenario to be used as a basis for decision-making. In reality, however, this was not the case, he argued. Instead, decision-making usually involved a quantification of risk and a comparison with some acceptable level of risk. This approach was, for example, reflected in the IUCN Red List, which called for a "precautionary but realistic" attitude to uncertainty. He concluded by expressing concern that the PP, in absence of a proper definition and necessary quantification, had developed into a slogan by those that wanted less or no utilisation of natural resources. Instead, science-based decision-making was required that took into account uncertainty, in order to find a sensible middle ground between the proponents and opponents of "sustainable utilisation".
Something to bear in mind.

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More concern about whale-watching

In the news...
RESEARCHERS at St Andrews University have discovered that whale-watching, an eco-tourism credited with raising awareness of the animals, could be responsible for disturbing their feeding and behavioural patterns.

The study of killer whales found that approaching boats were prone to frighten the giant mammals from good feeding areas.

The revelation has led to calls for whale-watching companies to be issued with permits and for the establishment of no-go areas.

The world is not a giant zoo.




Just Engaged!

Well, not "just engaged", actually engaged since almost a month ago now, on Friday October 20, but didn't want certain readers to find out about my big news through the media.

So, finally for posterity, a little about the big night...

Kana's birthday was the day before on the 19th, so I planned to take her out to Top of Shinagawa for dinner, ostensibly for her birthday. Top of Shinagawa is a bar/restaurant on the 39 floor of Shinagawa Prince Hotel, where we had gone together for some drinks back in March.

That day I had taken the afternoon off work to go to the Kuyakusho to pick up my renewed foreigners registration card (aka "gaijin card"), and got suited up for the evening. With ring in pocket I set out to pick Kana up. It came in a box, as engagement rings do, but this left me with the dilemma of how I would conceal it from her prior to the big moment later in the evening. Along with the ring also came a small purse which I guessed was precisely for this purpose, and put it to use. Still, the nerves were playing up a bit as I walked down the street towards the station, and found myself confirming that, yes indeed the ring truly was safely in my right side pocket, and that I hadn't in a bout of insanity left it back on top of the TV in a rush to get out the door.

I arrived a few minutes early and sat down, checked my pocket once again to convince myself that there would be no need to continue this all evening, and took a series of deep breaths.

Then the time came so I stood up and waited for her. Soon she arrived, and the few remaining nerves vanished completely.

A short while later we arrived at Shinagawa, and made our way across the road to the hotel, and up the elevator to the 39th.

Back in March we had only sat in the bar on the south side looking over Tokyo Bay, but on this occasion with a dinner planned we were seated back in the centre of the floor, on an elevated level where the restaurant and kitchen are located.

We ordered some wine and a course menu. After a few iterations of plates coming and going, the birthday cake that I had arranged for came out prior to our main dessert.

Then, before she blew out the candles, I reminded her to make a wish (which afterwards she joked was "I hope this cake tastes really great!").


Out went the candles, and hoping like hell that the ring was indeed still in my pocket, I reached in and pulled it out, and enjoyed the moment as the expression on her face transitioned from happiness to confusion, as I brought the small purse into her view. Then out came the ring, and she understood - I made my proposal, she gave her response.

All in all, quite a night. More photos later, once I get my hands on Kana's digital camera. In the meantime, here's Kana to the right shortly after I slipped the ring on to her finger.



Japanese rock dancers in Odaiba

I took my old school/uni buddy (Siong Loong Choong) to Odaiba last Sunday, and was surprised to find a bunch of 1950's dinosaurs dancing around at the area in front of Aqua City, near Fuji TV's building.

These guys are usually found at the entrance to Yoyogi Park near Harajuku on Sunday's. Perhaps they are trying to spread the tradition.

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is also a big fan of Elvis Presley and hit the news during his final days of office when he visited Graceland with President Bush.



Japan's whale meat stockpiles (by region)

One possibly often overlooked fact about Japan's whale meat stockpile, is that it is actually dispersed in various locations. There are multiple stockpiles, and the "whale meat stockpile" figure that we hear about is actually the sum of these stockpiles located in various regions.

The official frozen marine product stock figures that I have been graphing lately have included data about the top stockpile locations since January this year (unfortunately not prior to that).

So let's take a look at another graph:
This graph shows the level of stocks in frozen storage at the month end per region.

Kanazawa, a port city on the Sea of Japan coast, suddenly starts to feature as of the April month-end figures. The reason for this is because no figures were available for Kanazawa for the previous 3 months of the year (presumably because Kanazawa wasn't in the top 7 then). The sudden huge influx of whale meat stock was due to the return of the JARPA II fleet from the Antarctic, which returned back to Japan arriving at Kanazawa.

It appears that the other smaller chunk of the JARPA II by-product whale meat that hit the stockpile figures in March found it's way into Tokyo warehouses, which were previously almost empty, at just around 80 tonnes.

For Hakodate (which only appears in the most recent figures, since August month-end and September) the story is probably similar to Kanazawa. The JARPN II research appears to have used Hakodate as a base, resulting in the sudden jump from nowhere to more than 1,000 tonnes at the end of August. Kushiro (in July) also appears to be the location for another portion of the JARPN II by-products.

Meanwhile, the major consumer markets of Tokyo and Osaka appear to have seen an influx of stocks from Kanazawa during July, coinciding with the sale of JARPA II by-products that was held from July 3rd to August 3rd (from this ICR press release).

Note that the sale of the 1,897.8 tonnes JARPN II products is scheduled for between November 29 and January 9 '07 (as seen in this other ICR press release), so the level of stocks in Hakodate, Ishinomaki and Kushiro, where this meat appears to be located, should remain at fairly high levels until the December month end.

The official figures only provide the top 7 regions per month, and the graphing tool I'm using only allows me up to 6 lines, so I've not included all the figures available. For the record, Yokohama, Shimonoseki and Nagasaki were the other 3 locations that made it into the top 7 in any of the 9 months for which figures are available. In brief:
But back to the graph - here it is again in a stacked bar format, so we can see the grand total:
From this it appears that the top 7 stockpile regions account for between 85% and 90% of all frozen stocks indicated in the official figures.

An interesting feature is that, with the exception of Tokyo in January and February, stockpile levels in Tokyo and Osaka are reasonably stable, unlike Ishinomaki and Kushiro, which exhibit a fairly consistant decreasing trend for the first several months of the year.

With little incoming stock scheduled before the approximately 3,500 tonnes of JARPA II meat likely to arrive in March and April 2007, it will be interesting to watch how the various stockpiles decrease over the coming months, particularly with regard to Tokyo and Kanazawa, which I assume will be recipient to the by-products again next year.

* * *

As an aside, AFP apparently reported that
"Whale meat consumption in Japan dropped sharply after the commercial moratorium but has since been growing"
This is first time in a long while that a western media source has made a statement that actually reconciles with official stockpile figures. Well done AFP.

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Greenpeace Japan's survey on opinion in Japan

Greenpeace's Japan arm has made some claims about opinion in Japan on whaling in their press release on the commencement of the JARPA II voyage.

They refer to a survey commissioned by them, which "showed that ... more than 70 % of Japanese do NOT support whaling in the Southern Ocean".

That's a creative way to express the results of the survey, because what was actually found in response to the main question of "do you support or oppose the resumption of commercial whaling" (page 4) was that
Having pointed that out, it's worth noting that the survey itself notes that the sampling methodology used involved selecting respondents from people registered in an Internet based "Cyber Panel", and that the results "are not necessarily representative of the whole population of Japan" (my translation, from page 2).

The strongest opposition to whaling was observed amongst university students, and the survey concludes in it's summary that (my translation, from page 7):
Amongst younger respondents, while there was a tendency to be opposed to a resumption in commercial whaling, respondents were not knowledgeable about whale environments or Japan's whaling, let alone aware of international decisions made by the IWC.

It could be said that opinions amongst younger respondents against a resumption in commercial whaling are by no means based on sufficient knowledge of whaling.
Greenpeace didn't quote that bit in their press release, either.

The survey naturally contained some leading questions, including references to the increasing stockpile levels, but making no mention of the increases in consumption and supply which are at play there.

I can but trust that going forward Greenpeace Japan will endeavour to provide the Japanese public with more complete information about whaling.

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JARPA II fleet departs, protest behaviour under scrutiny

The Boston Globe online has a nice picture of the JARPA II fleet departure today:

The issue seems to have been covered most heavily in Australia, with an ICR spokesman getting a good amount of press, particularly on the issue of planned obstruction activities:

The institute, which controls the whaling fleet of a mother ship and several catchers, says the protesters are planning illegal activities.

"These groups are breaking the law by interfering with our research and putting the lives of our crew and scientists at risk," the spokesman said.

"Japan's research is perfectly legal conducted under the Whaling Convention.

"The IWC passed a resolution at this year's annual meeting in St Kitts and Nevis condemning Greenpeace's interference with our program and the commission may take action against them if we see a repeat of last year's harassment."

Australia has been at the forefront of efforts to close off loopholes in IWC rules that allow Japan to take whales for scientific research.

"Australia and New Zealand need to get their heads around the fact there is mounting scientific evidence that most whale stocks around the globe can support a limited commercial hunt for food," the ICR spokesman said.

"The world community has woken up to that fact and we are witnessing the last remaining years of an unjust moratorium."

Elsewhere, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that apparently
"the Japanese Government has warned that any protesters who board the fleet will be arrested."
The issue of protester conduct was addressed at IWC 58, resulting in Resolution 2006-2 "Resolution on the safety of vessels engaged in whaling and whale research-related activities", being adopted by consensus.

The resolution notes that the IWC "and Contracting Governments support the right to legitimate and peaceful forms of protest and demonstration", but concludes by agreeing and declaring that "the Commission and its Contracting Governments do not condone any actions that are a risk to human life and property in relation to these activities of vessels at sea, and urges persons and entities to refrain from such acts"

In the past, Sea Shepherd has been "ardently condemned" by the IWC and all its members, for it's "acts of terrorism", and they seem intent on more such reprehensible behaviour (regarded as counterproductive to their cause) this year.

On the other hand, whether the Greenpeace organization wishes to redeem itself after events back in January this year remain to be seen.

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Ian Campbell on JARPA II departure

Always a source of amusement, Ian Campbell, Australian Minister for the Environment, has again dazzled us with his views on JARPA II, in this press release.
“Last year Japan ramped up their ‘scientific’ whaling under the JARPA II programme to take 856 minke whales, (almost 60 per cent of which were pregnant females) and 10 fin whales."
Poor old Ian has got two facts wrong in a single sentence:

1) Only 853 minke whales were taken, not 856.

2) Only 224 of the 853 minke whales were pregnant, which is 26%. Ian seems to be confused. The 60% figure he is talking about was actually the percentage of female minke whales (391 out of the 853) that were pregnant. As I noted in July, ICR scientists reported this to the IWC Scientific Committee, prior to the IWC 58 meeting held in June (and it's a positive sign for conservation of the Antarctic minke whale resources).

Regarding the JARPA II quota for 850 minke whales +/- 10%, Ian reckons that:
“these are commercial quantities of whales."
Commercial quotas were in the past signficantly higher than at present under scientific permit. Prior to the adoption of the unneccessary moratorium, minke whale catches in the Antarctic were regularly above 5,000 each year. The IUCN observer at the time noted that "where commercial whaling is still being carried on, the catches are, by and large, within the productive capacity of the stock and should be sustainable indefinitely", qualifying that this was dependant on adequate scientific advice.

Ian was pulling all the tricks out of his hat:
“Despite the slaughter of hundreds of whales by Japan we have yet to see any viable scientific results."
This fancy claim despite the fact that the IWC Scientific Committee recognised that the results obtained at the halfway point of the original JARPA programme "had the potential to improve" the IWC's revised management procedure. Of course, this isn't the sort of result that Ian is interested in, because it "might allow an increased allowed catch of minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere without increasing the depletion risk above the level indicated by the existing Implementation Simulation Trials for these minke whales."

The IWC itself acknowledged these findings when they were embarrased by them at the time, as seen in IWC Resolution 1997-5, but today Ian seems to be happy just to hope that everyone has forgotten about this support for Japan's research programmes from the Scientific Committee.

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JARPA II to depart Wednesday

The ICR today announced (Japanese press release) that the JARPA II research fleet, consisting of 7 ships (the mother ship, 3 sighting-sampling vessels, and 2 dedicated sighting survey vessels) will depart on it's second voyage tomorrow, Wednesday 15.

The research this year is essentially the same as last year, except that the region of ocean being surveyed shifts to the eastern part of the JARPA II research area which is roughly in the Antarctic waters south of New Zealand. Again around 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales are scheduled to be taken, in addition to a variety of other research activities including non-lethal biopsy sampling, oceanographic survey, etc.

* * *

The western media caught on to this quickly, probably with prodding from NGO groups such as WDCS (here) and Greenpeace Japan (here).

The WDCS in particular are pushing the line that whale meat stocks are running high. According to the WDCS,
"demand for whale meat is falling so fast in Japan that ...",
and by their estimation,
"The government is simply clutching at straws as the market collapses"
This is despite significant increases in consumption evident from analysis of official stockpile figures.

The WDCS also feigns confusion:
"The government has to reduce the price of whale meat every year to increase sales and thousands of tonnes are stockpiled, unwanted, in freezers. And yet, they still keep increasing the hunt. It makes no sense."
The government in fact sets prices so as to cover the costs of research, not to increase sales; the whale meat clearly is not "unwanted in freezers" as official figures show; the quota increase in the Antarctic was a once off as the JARPA programme concluded and JARPA II commenced; and the reason that "it makes no sense" to the WDCS is because they refuse to accept that JARPA II is a genuine research programme, running at a loss. JARPA II's objectives do not include "making a profit", in stark contrast to what we will see with future commercial whaling operations.

If all that wasn't enough, the WDCS is also confused about the gender of Iceland's Ambassador, referring to Ms. Fumiko Saiga as "he", rather than "she".

Finally in conclusion, apparently primarily based on their conviction that whale meat demand is decreasing, the WDCS believes that:
"The three leading whaling nations, Japan, Norway, and Iceland, clearly have no need to go whaling."
On the contrary, what is clear is that the Irish Examiner, who reported this story, needs to do a better job of reporting facts and figures, rather than regurgitating prepared anti-whaling NGO propaganda, basically word for word.

The western public deserves to be properly informed.

* * *

UPDATE: Some initial media coverage in Japan covers a pre-departure Buddhist ceremony held in Shimonoseki.

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RRRRUGBY All Blacks v France

Awesome ABs thrash France

12 November 2006

And they said Paris in 2004 was the benchmark All Black performance in the Graham Henry era. No longer. That now belongs to Lyon 2006 as this gargantuan black force destroyed France 47-3 at Stade de Gerland today.

Don't forget this was the world No 1 against the world No 2 - it was supposed to be close. A measure of the difference between the two sides came at the end as France was jeered from the field before the visitors were given a standing ovation.

Full story here

Unfortunately, I couldn't see the game, but sounds like it would have been a good one to see. Will have to take a look on YouTube later to look for highlights.

It is indeed a fact that the all blacks are number 1.




Tokyo Saturday

An old friend of mine found himself in Tokyo today so I took him for a buzz around the sites of the city.

Crappy weather unfortunately, but after meeting in Shibuya, dropping his luggage off at my place, we headed off to Shinjuku, followed by Akihabara, followed by the Imperial Palace, followed by Marunouchi, followed by Ginza.

We had a good time and I talked more nonsense than I have in years. Funny what happens when you find yourself back in the company of your old university mates.

It was one couple's happy day here on the 35th floor of the Maru building. The priest in typical Japanese wedding's is apparently usually a foreigner who speaks Japanese (to make it seem more authentic, apparently, although I understand that some of these guys pretend to be a priest just as another source of income, besides their English day jobs).

I dunno about the white suit on the groom though.


One of the famous sites of Ginza is this big clock on the corner opposite the Mitsukoshi department store.

Still only just after 5:00 pm at this point, but these days it gets dark early.

Just before heading back home we passed by a sushi shop which was advertising... guess what? on the menu...

You guessed it! Whale meat on sale again:

Listed amongst the shop manager's recommended products, whale meat sushi (3 from the bottom right) was going for just 210 yen each here, very cheap indeed. "First in first served". Norwegian Salmon is there beside it, also going at the same price. I had plans to eat a little closer to home on this day, but I might stop by here after work one night and give this place a try - being a sushi fan, after all.




Whale meat stockpile update for September 2006 figures

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan has today released the official frozen marine product stock figures for the month of September 2006.

UPDATE 11/17: I have now summarized all this here at my Whaling-FAQ.

In brief, outgoing stock (a consumption indicator) was again higher in September 2006 than in the same month in the previous 2 years for which figures are available, following the trend of previous months. However, the high amount of incoming stock meant that the sum of the stockpiles only decreased slightly over the course of the month. Decreases in stockpiles should be more significant in coming months, as supply is expected to be largely limited to whale meat from by-catch until early Spring.

In detail, I have again extracted the relevant figures specific to whale meat stockpiles from the official frozen marine product stockpile figures, and updated my graphs to reflect the latest data (a raw table of which is available further down the page).


Monthly outgoing stock figures since to February 2004:

click on graph for larger version

Outgoing stock volume (an indication of consumption) for September 2006 was 246 tonnes higher than in September 2005, or an approximate increase of 55%. This is a continuation of the increasing consumption trend (on an annualized basis) that is evident from figures of previous months.

To put the September volume of outgoing stock into perspective:

Monthly incoming stock figures since to February 2004:

click on graph for larger version

Incoming stocks in September were roughly between the high level of supply in 2004 and the lower level in 2005.

Stockpile movement

click on graph for larger version

UPDATE 11/10: Fixed graph - values corrected to reflect figures from October 2005 to September 2006

Incoming supply for September was relatively high compared to other months, so despite the large amount of outgoing stock, the sum of stockpiles around the country remained at 5,222 tonnes at the month end - a minor reduction of 52 tonnes.

In October's figures (due out this time next month) there will probably be some additional whale meat supply due to the tail end of lethal research activity (although fewer whales than usual were caught in one research programme due to weather conditions). However, we can generally expect incoming stock to be limited between now and next March or so, when the by-products from the JARPA II research programmes will start to hit the stockpile figures.

If consumption retains recent levels through until February 2007, we can expect the stockpiles to be reduced below the low levels seen in February 2006 and March 2005. This is despite the significant increase in supply due to the commencement of the JARPA II programme this in the austral summer of 2005/2006.

Raw Data

Finally, the raw data sourced from the ministry that I used to generate the graphs above is as follows:

MonthStockpile size at previous month endIncoming stockOutgoing stockStockpile size at current month end
Feb '0532761563843048
Mar '0530481493602837
Apr '05283720503484539
May '0545391093184330
Jun '0543301453834092
Jul '0540928797454226
Aug '05422613257474804
Sep '0548042104504564
Oct '0545622075514220
Nov '0542201955253890
Dec '0538902476263511
Jan '0635122245513185
Feb '0631851494362898
Mar '06289815398273610
Apr '06361029205615969
May '0659691293575741
Jun '0657411634145490
Jul '06549090517234672
Aug '06467213877855274
Sep '0652746446965222
* all figures in in tonnes

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Cyprus to join the IWC

The IWC's 72nd member may not be too far off.

Cyprus, a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea, appears set to join at the behest of the United Kingdom:

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions his Department has had with the Cypriot Government on Cyprus joining the International Whaling Conference. [99583]

Mr. Bradshaw: I have written to the Cypriot Government, and to all the other member states of the European Union that are not yet members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), urging them to join the IWC, stressing the importance of their membership.

I am pleased to say that I received a reply from my counterpart in Cyprus. He has assured me of Cyprus' commitment to conservation issues and that the Cypriot Government is looking to join the IWC in the near future. The British Embassy in Nicosia is fully engaged in supporting the Cypriot Government in this step.

The problem for the United Kingdom is that there are only so many nations in the EU that have not yet joined the IWC to vote against sustainable whaling but would be willing to sacrifice their principles in order to do so.

The nations in favour of sustainable whaling on the other hand can appeal to nations that support sustainable use all around the world for support for the principle.

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Whale meat salad in Shinjuku Takashimaya

I found myself in Shinjuku's Takashimaya department store on Saturday morning. Here's something I found in the salad section:

"New winter product - the dear old taste - whale salad (with Japanese style onion dressing)".

714 yen per 100 grams (sales tax included) means this is one of the more expensive whale meat options going. The other salads on sale at Takashimaya were only around 250 ~ 400 yen or so per 100g, making this product by far and away the most expensive salad product on offer.

The label at the bottom of the image notes that the product is "healthy, being rich in vitamin A, low in fat and cholesterol", with whale meat being used in preference to beef, pork and chicken, due to it's higher protein and lower cholesterol.

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Lunch in Akasaka

I found myself in Akasaka for lunch yesterday, and took the opportunity to eat at my favourite sushi restaurant (in the whole world), not far from Akasaka-mitsuke station.

I always have the 1.5 person sized nigirizushi lunch, which includes squid, tuna, and other good stuff. No whale meat though. They have it on the menu (4th from the left) though, and I tried it here before once or twice.

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Iceland rejects 25 nation diplomatic protest

As readers will have seen elsewhere, 25 out of the IWC's 71 nations (from Europe, South America, and the USA, Australia, New Zealand and the UK) joined a diplomatic protest against Iceland's resumption of commercial whaling.

In their protest, the 25 nations said that they
"believe that commercial whaling quotas determined and prosecuted in the absence of any agreed management system undermines the proper functioning of the IWC."
This of course is ridiculous coming from these 25 nations, who are the reason that a management system for whaling has not been agreed. Many of these nations openly admit that they won't agree to any system that permits any commercial whaling.

Iceland's representatives have responded, telling Forbes magazine:
"They should take a leaf out of our book on sustaibability, since we are very diligent in our fisheries. Most of the 25 countries on that list, which are in the EU, have a rather wretched record of sustainability in fisheries."
Of course, some of the 25 nations do not even have a coastline to start with and wouldn't know the first thing about sustainable marine resource utilization.

The High North Alliance (HNA) also reports that the Fin whale hunt has been called off for the rest of the year due to weather conditions, with most of the quota already taken, amounting to
"about 100 tonnes of excellent eco-friendly whale meat and blubber ready for the market"
In the same release, the HNA also illustrates the farcical situation with Americans killing more than 60 Bowhead whales annually (abundance estimated to be around 10,000) yet not being criticised as has been Iceland for killing just 9 Fin whales in the year to August 2007 (abundance estimated to be around 26,000).

The USA will be wondering how it can both secure a continued Bowhead quota for it's people at next year's IWC meeting, while at the same criticising Iceland for undertaking lower impact whaling activity.

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Additional whale meat stockpile graphs

Figures on frozen whale meat stockpiles from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan go back as far as February 2004.

I've extracted the whale meat figures for each of these months and created some additional graphs.


The first set are two illustrations of the outgoing whale meat stock figures, which can be regarded as an indicator of consumption. These graphs specifically show the different rate of outflow in each month of the year, compared across the 3 years (figures for Jan 2004 and Sep 2006 onwards are not available).

Click on graphs for larger version

From these graphs we see that, in all but one month, the volume of outflows increased from 2004 to 2005 and then again from 2005 to 2006. Only for February 2004 to February 2005 did the volume drop. Shipments increased in every other case.

This confirms the general increasing consumption trend, although consumption is especially rocky in 2006. July especially saw an unprecedented amount of frozen whale meat shipped (at least from a modern times perspective). An ICR press release indicates that JARPA II by-products (including long-not-tasted fin whale meat) were put on sale from July 3 to August 3, and of course this was also the month after the high profile IWC meeting in St. Kitts and Nevis. At this stage these factors are my best guesses for the big spike in shipments.


The next graph of figures illustrates supply changes for each month for the last 3 years (again with no data available for Jan 2004 or Sep 2006 onwards).

Click on graph for larger version

2006 shows the huge increase in by-products in March/April due largely to the expansion of the JARPA research programme.

In 2004, for some reason the timing of the supply differed from 2005 and 2006, with seemingly only a fraction of JARPA by-products getting included in these figures initially, but then higher levels of supply were maintained over the summer months. The reason for this is not obvious, so it could perhaps have something to do with the survey method used by the Ministry when compiling these figures. At any rate, supply in 2004 and 2005 is clearly less than in 2006, as was to be expected with the JARPA programme expansion.

Whale meat for non-profit purposes

The final graph is based on figures published by the ICR regarding the amount in tonnes of whale meat by-products that were put on sale after the JARPA and JARPN programmes completed each year. Despite the big rise in supply, the amount of meat set aside for non-profit purposes (school lunches, special distributions in traditional whaling areas) has only been increased slightly, indicating that most of the additional meat is being disposed of on the general markets.

Click on graph for larger version

Figures for JARPN in 2006 are not yet available as these meat by-products have not yet been put on sale. Going by ICR press releases from previous years, the JARPN meat will be sold mainly in the wholesale markets during the month of December (although this meat is already reflected in the stockpile figures).

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