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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

12/28/2006

 

Have a Happy New Year!

Hey there everyone, especially to my regular readers, but most of all those who comment from time to time:

Have a really Happy New Year, and a healthy 2007!

I'll see you all... mmm maybe a week or so from now (^_^)

What about some quick highlights? Two for me this year:
Number one highlight
Number two highlight

Two very different events, but both amazing occasions that I will never forget (well, surely not the first one, but hopefully there's even better news in 2007 with regards to the second).

How about you? Any good stories from 2006? Feel free to leave your mark in the comments section (^_^)

12/27/2006

 

JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #4

Japanese representative Hideki Moronuki has hit the nail on the head with the following statement being reported in the aussie media, with regards to SSCS's openly conceded tactics of vessel ramming:
"The activity is very, very dangerous and whenever you look at the website of Sea Shepherd, they say they haven't killed or injured anybody, but their activities may kill or injure people".
That's completely right.

If Watson thinks his tactics won't harm human life, why does he think the whalers should be worried about his tactics?

Last year he liked to claim that the whalers were "running away" whenever his ship appeared. Wishful thinking? A more accurate assessment would seem to be that the SS flagship was simply to slow to keep up, which is why SSCS have purchased a new vessel for this year.

Another article gives another angle on Watson's tactics:

THE hardline anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd plans to disrupt Japan's summer whaling program in Antarctica by inflicting just enough damage on the whaling vessel to force it to comply with strict Japanese safety regulations and return to port for repairs.

Sea Shepherd's president, Paul Watson, told the Herald yesterday that he had no intention of endangering life. Sea Shepherd activists have sunk 10 whaling vessels in the North Atlantic since 1979. Last summer it tried to foul the propellers of the whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru, the vessel it will soon be chasing.

Of course, SS already tried such things last season, without success (thankfully). What's more, such actions clearly seem to run afoul of relevant international agreements (as the ICR pointed out last year). For example, Article 101 of UNCLOS reads:

Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).

Of course I'm sure Watson has some big fancy porkie to excuse himself from this, but I wonder how much longer the officials will be patient.

Watson has also been having other problems:
... the Farley Mowat's departure was delayed over its registration.

Attempts to shift the registration from Canada to Britain had to be abandoned when British authorities refused to allow the ship onto their books.

Captain Watson alleged that the British were told by Greenpeace that his organisation was an eco-terrorist group. He eventually obtained a registration from Belize.

Belize? Depending on how far SS go with their obstruction this year, the Belize IWC representative might be in for an uncomfortable IWC meeting next year. It seems likely that further resolution be passed related to the safety of whale research vessels.

Anyway... As for Greenpeace:
Greenpeace confirmed it was sending one vessel south: the Esperanza, a fast ship that stayed with the fleet for 29 days in 2005-6. Its campaigners, equipped with fast inflatables, cameras and satellite access, opened an unprecedented window into the whalers' activities.

Esperanza left Mexico on December 11 for Auckland, and is unlikely to reach the whaling fleet until late January. Last year whaling ended on March 20.

So only one ship from GP this season (no Arctic Sunrise), and they won't show up until such a point in time that the research fleet will already be a long way towards it's quota. But then, as Watson has charged, Greenpeace appear to be more interested in this for the fundraising opportunity presented than any genuine concern for the environment.

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12/23/2006

 

Oh, the tedium...

What a boring austral summer this is turning out to be.

Tonight we've got more news from the "whale-safe beer" kufuffle.
"Australians are wise enough to make their own decisions as to whether this is a multi-millionaire trying to stoke racism in the Australian community to try to make a buck."
-- Lion Nathon spokesman

Elsewhere, Greenpeace is still trying to deceive the western public about the whale meat consumption trends here in Japan. According to Greenpeace:
it's clear that they don't have a high demand since more and more whale meat is getting stockpiled.
As readers of this blog know, consumption has actually increased by more than 50% since 2004. Greenpeace is however a "campaigning" organization, not an educational organization. They must campaign to continue to raise funds, and they must raise funds to continue to campaign. More silliness:
There doesn't appear to be any logical explanation why the Japanese government supports whaling on the high seas and since the majority of the Japanese public are also against it - isn't it about time they stopped?
Greenpeace draws their own illogical conclusions, which is why they can't understand the Japanese government's position. Meanwhile, readers of this blog also know that it's an outright lie that the majority of the Japanese public "are against" whaling.

Finally, Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace are busy whinging at each other (see here and here). Greenpeace is still not even anywhere near the Antarctic, and doesn't plan to be there until sometime into the New Year. The most likely reason to my mind is that last year they wasted lots of valuable media time in the Antarctic over the Christmas / New Year's period. It's hard to get media attention at this time as everyone is on holiday (that's why we saw them ram the Nisshin Maru on January 8th last year).

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12/21/2006

 

Chris Carter on Iceland's whaling resumption

According to New Zealand Conservation Minister and IWC delegate, Hon. Chris Carter:
"The Icelanders have been a bit duplicitous, to be honest ... the bottom line is you can't join up to a club if you're not prepared to obey the rules"
The full audio interview can be found here.

So tell us again Chris, how did all the anti-whaling nations that have no intention of ever acting in accordance with the object and purpose of the ICRW manage to join?

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12/20/2006

 

Fiordland bottlenose dolphins

During this year's IWC meeting I noted a serious conservation issue that had been recognised with regards to a unique bottlenose dolphin found in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland (in my home nation of New Zealand). I was surprised to see this news, given that New Zealand's politicians consistently choose to take the moral high ground regarding cetacean conservation issues.

Today I found that David Lusseau, author of the study that I noted earlier this year, projecting the extinction of the population if appropriate conservation measures are not taken, has created a blog dedicated to the fiordland bottlenose dolphins. If you feel so inclined, please visit the blog and have a read.

Again, from page 64 of the 2006 Scientific Committee report:
The Committee agrees that there appears to be a significant impact from whalewatching and vessel traffic on this critically small bottlenose dolphin population. It recommends that the Government of New Zealand increases protection for this population and other bottlenose dolphin populations in Fiordland as a matter of urgency.
I'm not sure what exactly the situation is here with the government and Department of Conservation. Hopefully Lusseau can provide an update about what actions (if any) DoC has taken to address this issue.

Last week a completely unique species of cetacean, the Baiji, found only in the Yangtze river in China, was declared "functionally extinct". The shocking thing for me was that since childhood, the New Zealand media had frequently made me aware of the "save the whales" movement, which continues today, but I had never once heard of the Baiji, which is now extinct. On the other hand, the minke whale species, long targeted in the Antarctic by whaling operations, is not likely to go extinct anytime soon due to current levels of anthropogenic removal. I am hoping that we will not see a repeat of the Baiji extinction with this bottlenose dolphin population in my birthplace of New Zealand.

I have visited Fiordland once. It is an amazing place. Hopefully it will remain every bit as amazing in the future as well.

UPDATE [23:45]: David Lusseau was quick to respond to my inquiry:
While DoC has verbally reacted to the IWC statement, 6 months later there is still no concrete steps taken towards real protection.
Perhaps it's time to write another email to Chris Carter ...

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12/19/2006

 

JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #3 - "World opinion"

New Zealand and Australia have put "world opinion" (sic) on display again.

Kiwi Minister of Conservation Hon. Chris Carter managed to muster together 27 names for his demarche:
Americas:
Argentina,
Brazil, Chile, Peru, Mexico, United States
Australasia:
Australia,
New Zealand
Europe:
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom
Better than the meagre efforts of 12 nations (protesting at Norway) and 17 nations (Japan) earlier in the year, but of course amongst the 19 European nations included, 6 of them don't even have a coastline.

Over the ditch in Australia, "Minister for the Environment" Ian Campbell illustrated that he has fewer mates than Chris Carter, only being able to muster together 21 names:
Americas:
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, United States

Australasia:

Australia, New Zealand
Europe:
Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom

That is, the names that Carter managed to get but Campbell missed out on were Czech Republic, Hungary, San Marino, Switzerland (all landlocked) plus Monaco and new IWC member Slovenia (all European nations).

I still find myself asking where the "world" in this "world opinion" is, though? To his credit, Ian Campbell seems to have dropped the phrase from his PR, but Chris Carter has persisted with it. Why not just be honest and concede that this is essentially "European opinion", or perhaps "Anglo-saxon opinion" plus a few extras? There's not an African or Asian nation included amongst this bunch. Furthermore, with just 27 nations, less than 40% of IWC member nations have participated in this show.

Incidentally, Carter, who is having troubles back home with his portfolio, and Campbell both seem completely unaware of the situation at the IWC, both whinging that JARPA II "undermines international efforts to conserve and protect whales".

The goals stated in the ICRW are 1) to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and 2) to thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry. There is no international agreement that protecting every single individual whale (which will all die eventually regardless, as with any living creature) is appropriate. Just because these jokers and a bunch of their European politician mates think so is no justification for trying to lump this upon the rest of the nations of the world.

* * *

On a completely different note, George McCallum informs me that the Shonan Maru No. 2 has arrived in Cape Town for another 2 months of research. The Japanese government continues to be the only government stumping up with a research vessel for this work, which is directed by the IWC Scientific Committee. Last season the cruise brought back good news for the Antarctic blue whale.

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12/18/2006

 

Whale meat in demand in Korea

OhMyNews has a story about whale by-catch (and possible occurrences of poaching) in South Korea.
Korea's 'Lottery of the Sea'
Salvaging Dead Whales

Robert Neff

During the winter months, the waters off Korea teem with whales and dolphins, much to the delight of whale watchers young and old. Invariably, as the number of whales increases, so too do the accidental deaths of these majestic beasts as the result of being caught in fishing nets or struck by boats -- especially the high-speed ferries operating between South Korea and Japan. While this is viewed as an unfortunate fact by many, others see it as a potential windfall.

On Dec. 6, a newspaper article jubilantly described the recovery of three dead minke whales off Korea's North Gyeongsan province in the East Sea as a "lottery of the Sea." The first two whales were discovered near Yeongdok and were worth, respectively, 9,250,000 won (US$9,970) and 6,300,000 won ($6,789). The third whale, nearly 5 meters long, was discovered near Pohang, but its worth has not been determined yet.

On Dec. 15, a Korean fishing boat captain discovered a 7.9-meter, 4.4-ton minke whale near Ulju, also in North Gyeongsan province. He quickly reported it to the maritime police, and the whale was salvaged.

On Dec. 16, a dead 6.6-meter, 4.5-ton minke whale was recovered by a Korean fisherman near Goheung, South Jeolla province. While the minke whale appears to be relatively numerous in the East Sea and is salvaged quite often along the eastern coast of Korea, it is seldom found along the coast of the Jeolla provinces.

According to the maritime police, this year there have been six whales caught in nets in South Jeolla, but this was the first minke whale. The whale was to be examined and then, depending on the results of the examination, the whale would probably be auctioned off.

Since the 1986 global whaling moratorium, it is illegal to hunt or capture whales in Korea -- violations of the law are punishable by up to three years in prison and fines up to 20,000,000 won ($21,550). However, whales that are caught in nets or accidentally killed and reported to the maritime authorities are then auctioned off and the proceeds given to the fisherman who discovered the whale. Thus the whales have earned the popular nickname "lottery of the sea."

In 2004, the monthly average number of whales accidentally caught in nets was three or four, but in the last couple of years this number has steadily increased. Partially because the number of minke whales found off the coast of Korea seems to have increased, as well as the number of nets and fishermen. This increase in the number of dead minke whales salvaged seems to have driven the price down as the meat has become more available.

According to the East Sea Maritime Police, in the Gangneung/Samcheok area of Kangwon province during the past three years there has been a monthly average of 5.2 dead whales discovered, but during the past couple of months the number has steadily increased. Eleven whales were recovered in September, thirteen whales in October, and 12 whales in November. According to Hankuk Ilbo (Dec. 6, 2006) there were 80 dead whales discovered and salvaged this year in Korea, but considering that the whale breeding season has just begun, this number is expected to rise even higher.

In the early 2000s the average price of a salvaged whale was about $28,000, but in late 2003 or early 2004, the price spiked to as high as $100,000, but apparently has fallen again.

Naturally, with so much money at stake there have been allegations in the past that organized crime was taking part in poaching expeditions. The whales were harpooned or shot with guns and then harvested at sea -- the meat was then sold for a lower price to the increasing number of restaurants that sold whale meat. Not only was poached whale meat cheaper, but it was generally fresher than the salvaged whale meat, which was first inspected and then later auctioned off.

While whale meat for most Koreans is not a traditional food, it has gained some popularity over the past couple of years for its "reputed" health benefits. This has lead to an increase in the number of restaurants throughout the southern part of Korea, especially in the Gyeongsan provinces that serve whale meat.

Often the salvaged whales died as a result of being accidentally caught in large fishing nets. Often these large fishing nets are destroyed by the whales and their fight to escape them. Thus it is no wonder that many fishermen hope that the whales are found in the wreckage of their nets. These accidental encounters between the whales and fishermen often prove costly to both.

However, not all encounters are accidental. It has been suggested by some environmentalists that the fishermen intentionally place their nets in areas that the valuable minke whales are known to pass through in hopes that they will become entangled in their nets.

Because of these and other allegations, the Korean maritime police are keeping a diligent watch in order to eliminate any illegal activity on the fishermen's part.

With the growing number of whales in Korean waters, there are increased calls for the restart of Korea's whaling industry. In 2004 proponents argued that there were "more than enough whales, especially the minke" to justify Korean whaling. With Iceland and Norway's recent whale harvests and the continued Japanese "hunts for research purposes" the argument for resuming Korea's whaling seems to be gaining strength.
South Korea generally votes with the pro-sustainable use bloc at the IWC, along with other states in the region, including Japan, China and Russia.

This article is another illustration that it's naive for the anti-whaling nations of Europe, South America and Australasia to think that they can achieve a global whaling ban. The IWC needs to complete an RMS package, and fulfil it's responsibilities as laid out in the ICRW.

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12/16/2006

 

Phil Clapham on whaling and lethal research methods

Several anti-whaling people have mentioned to me an article entitled "The whaling issue: Conservation, confusion, and casuistry", by Phil Clapham and others, which appears to have been published in response to Joji Morishita's "Multiple analysis of the whaling issue: Understanding the dispute by a matrix". Both articles have apparently been published in "Marine Policy".

I've not read either, although Clapham posted the abstract of his to a mailing list (here).

While I'm no scientist, everyone is entitled to their own political opinion, and in that regard I feel qualified to comment on the abstract of Clapham's paper. To my mind, Clapham does himself a big disservice with his constant indulging in the political side of the whaling debate. In 2005, he and four other scientists even went so far as to break the IWC Scientific Committee's document confidentiality rules, in publishing a criticism of the JARPA II research proposal in "Nature", prior to the commencement of the IWC plenary.

Anyway, from the abstract of his new paper:
For many people in this debate, the issue is not that some whales are not abundant, but that the whaling industry cannot be trusted to regulate itself or to honestly assess the status of potentially exploitable populations.
This certainly appears to be Clapham's personal position on the question of commercial whaling. I disagree. I believe that it is not the responsibility of the whaling industry to regulate itself, but the governments of the world to properly and effectively regulate their industry. This goes for every industry, not just whaling (Clapham would also do well to avoid focusing on Japan as they clearly aren't the only nation interested in whaling).

With regard to assessment of potentially exploitable populations, I agree that it is not appropriate for levels of acceptable exploitation to be determined based on stock assessments undertaken solely by whalers. The best forum for this is the IWC's Scientific Committee (notes on their peer review processes can be found here).

Clapham goes on to talk of "Japan's ... often implausible stock assessments". The fact is that no IWC management actions will ever be taken based on the ICR's data alone without review and acceptance at the IWC/SC. Furthermore, the IWC/SC has actually seen fit to use Japan's data previously, for example in determining the abundance estimate for the common minke whale in the western north pacific (as I informed an EIA campaigner recently). Of course, Japan could quit the IWC, and resume commercial whaling basing management decisions solely on the advice of the ICR's scientists, but such a situation can be avoided if the politicians at the IWC agree to act in good faith, and in accordance with the object and purpose of the ICRW to which their nations have adhered.

Clapham also characterises Japanese policy of supporting "culling" of whales. The idea is not to "cull" whales (like they do with kangaroos in Australia and Kaimanawa horses in New Zealand), but "harvest" them. The whole point of sustainable whaling is to put food on plates, and whales, like fish, are considered edible in Japan, even if they aren't where Clapham comes from. Trying to associate whaling with the negative connotations of a "cull" is misleading at best.

He also complains about regulation and "true transparency in catch and market monitoring", which as far as I know Clapham is no expert in at all. Traffic East Asia - Japan made recommendations to the Japanese Government in the late 1990's, and they responded by putting new regulations in place in 2001. Since then, allegations of illegal whale meat on the market are still lodged (often prior to IWC meetings with much media fanfare), yet when these reports are reviewed at the IWC Scientific Committee it becomes apparent that inadequate references samples were used in drawing the conclusions (will dig out a reference for this later). If the scientists producing these papers were truly interested in improving any alleged weaknesses in the system, they would conduct their surveys in co-operation with the appropriate authorities so that they could verify their samples against the DNA database of legally acquired whale meat. The approach of these scientists attempting to embarrass the Government of Japan politically is not constructive. That they choose such methods appears to provide a good indication of their true motivations.

Finally Clapham introduces his view that Japan believes it has a "right to secure unlimited access to global marine resources". To assert that Japan wants "unlimited" access is frankly ridiculous and requires no response. Furthermore, Japan's desire to utilise living marine resources from the oceans is consistent with international agreements governing access to those resources.

Clapham's abstract concludes:
Whaling is inextricably tied to the international fisheries agreements on which Japan is strongly dependent; thus, concessions made at the IWC would have potentially serious ramifications in other fora.
Given that Clapham is working on his silly premise that Japan wants "unlimited access to global marine resources", I personally think he's well off the mark, and maybe he himself has read a tad too much extreme anti-whaling propaganda. Clapham would do well to skip his politics and stick to his science.

Just my personal view though, he can do what he likes with his time and his reputation amongst his peers.


Usefully, in another older article Clapham conceded that:
The point is not that lethal sampling cannot contribute anything to knowledge of whale populations, or even that there are no data which cannot be obtained by other means; one can always find scientific value in carcasses. Rather this issue is that lethal methods are not required to obtain information needed for population assessment.
The first sentence of this statement should come in handy the next time someone raises a question about whether the ICR is really conducting research. As for the second sentence, Clapham's view appears to be at odds with standard practice within the IWC Scientific Committee. For example, from the report of the Workshop for Western North Pacific Bryde's whale Implementation:
The Workshop considered information from several approaches, both genetic and non-genetic, as a number of studies (e.g. Donovan, 1991) have concluded that this is the most effective way to address questions of stock identity.
Clapham, on the other hand, asserts that
population structure is most reliably studied with genetic analysis, which is routinely conducted using tissue from skin biopsies (Palsboll et al. 1997); lethal sampling is not required for this work.
Towards the end of the article, Clapham comments on a suggestion that scientists should "take extraordinary care to acknowledge differences of opinion on science", responding that:
It is worth asking just how bad science has to be before its quality ceases to be a matter of opinion, by any reasonable standard of independent judgement.
Given the fact that his views on the assessing stock structure appear to be somewhat in conflict with the practice employed by the IWC Scientific Committee, I'd suggest that perhaps his own judgement wouldn't meet the criteria for such a standard.

In summary, the thing to remember in all of this is that ultimately the policy of pro-sustainable use nations is to make for the resumption of commercial whaling, allowing for profits to be made from the sale of whale meat. With these future plans in mind, nitpicking arguments about the merits lethal methods versus non-lethal methods for research are all pointless in the first place (as I've noted previously). Besides being used for research purposes, the whales are eventually eaten anyway, just as they would be in a purely commercial hunt. That some people wish to endlessly engage in such arguments ignoring this reality tells us much about their political agenda.

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Angry Japanese reaction to "whale-safe beer" campaign

Good news - as expected, Japanese interests have not taken too fondly to the "whale-safe beer" campaign, which depicted a Japanese businessman getting harpooned through the back and subsequently electrocuted, in a magnificent display of ignorance of the JARPA II research programme:

JOHN Singleton's anti-whaling crusade may have backfired as Japanese companies – including some of his clients – react in anger to his "whale-safe beer" campaign.

An Australian trade representative in Tokyo last night labelled Singo's anti-Japanese tactics in flogging his Bluetongue beer a "self-serving sideshow" that could harm our $54 billion trade relationship.

Austrade also warned against punishing non-whaling Japanese companies over whaling. Mr Singleton's website urges a boycott on Lion Nathan beers – including Tooheys, Hahn and XXXX – because a large shareholder in the company is Japanese brewer Kirin.

Kirin, which has no connection to Japan's whaling industry, is seething at the attack.

Insiders believe it is little more than an ill-considered get-square with Tooheys, which dumped Mr Singleton's advertising agency Singleton Ogilvy & Mather three years ago.

But it has opened a larger can of worms for Mr Singleton, whose web of business interests includes relationships with powerful Japanese companies.

Russell Tate, of communications group STW – co-owned by Mr Singleton – indicated the beer might not be his mate's smartest campaign.

"Singo's done a few things over the last 20 years that in hindsight might not have been good ideas," Mr Tate said.

Mr Tate is in an awkward spot, with STW's Japanese client list including Sony, Pioneer, Hitachi, Toshiba and Canon.

Behind the scenes the campaign is not seen as a joke – and not just by Kirin.

Canon spokeswoman Roslyn Richardson said: "This approach is not appropriate."

A Toyota spokesman said: "Whaling is an issue for governments not companies unconnected to whaling".

Mr Singleton was unavailable for comment yesterday.

If the man has any brains at all he'll withdraw the commercial and issue an apology.

On my previous post regarding this topic, Y/H-san, one of my regular Japanese readers commented (in Japanese):
I struggle to understand what on earth Australia is thinking.

Although this may be a beer commercial, and they are trying to appeal along the lines of "since the Japanese are harpooning whales, how would Japanese people feel if they were harpooned? stop whaling", for Japanese people the result will be a complete backfire:
- Don't equate whales to humans
- How about you guys shooting kangaroos with guns and eating them?
- This will get connected with racism issues

and so on... I think all that will come out of this is an emotional, bad result. I eat Australian meat, but I really don't need to, I can eat whale meat instead, and there are plenty of other sellers so I won't be put out.

It'll be interesting if this commercial is aired on Japanese TV.

Then things will really get crazy.
After a subsequent comment linking to the video at YouTube, Y/H-san added:
That commercial is grotesque.

What poor taste. I had thought that Aussies were smarter and wiser than this.

Thats... moronic [hope that's how to translate "tako" in this context - David]

I'm recommending my friends not to eat Aussie Beef, and I'd like to spread around what poor taste the Aussies have.

Also I'll be contacting the PM's office and other related areas requesting them to protest to Australia.

Elsewhere, apparently Australia wishes to obtain a free trade agreement with Japan. I wonder who stands to gain the most from the agreement? I think the Government of Japan should leverage this opportunity.

* * *

Other trouble related to Sea Shepherd has seen Ian Campbell defending himself:

"I'm wishing him a safe passage and I'm also reinforcing my message in a one-on-one conversation that respect for law of the sea, respect for human life and respect for the safety of ships at sea is incredibly important," Senator Campbell said.

"People who go around and threaten those important laws and safety measures potentially put the cause of whale conservation backwards.

"Paul Watson and I both share a passionate belief in the view that whaling should come to an end, it should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

"I just wanted to make sure he knew very clearly my view about his tactics."

It wasn't really necessary to "make sure", was it? After all, Campbell did describe Paul Watson as "deranged" last year. And indeed, Watson noticed.

Nice one, Ian.

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Judy Zeh on whale research and whaling management

Here's a few items from Judy Zeh, former chair of the IWC Scientific Committee.

From 1999:

For nearly two decades, UW Statistics Professor Judith Zeh has been studying whales, using statistical analysis to learn more about the size and dynamics of bowhead whale populations. Zeh's expertise recently led to her election as chair of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee.

The goal of the IWC, says Zeh, is to ensure that all stocks of whales are maintained at an appropriate level and not depleted. The Commission's Scientific Committee, made up of about 140 scientists named by 40 member governments, provides valuable information about scientific aspects of whaling.

A key piece of information about any whale population is its size. Other information might include the impact of environmental factors--environmental warming, whale watching--on whale populations, as well as identification of single interbreeding populations. Such information is significant as the Commission develops whaling policies.

As chair of the Scientific Committee, Zeh is the Commission's principal scientific advisor. She is the first woman to serve as chair in the IWC's 52-year history.

Why is a statistician like Zeh intrigued by whale research? It offers interesting challenges, she says. "Since we must study whales out in the ocean, there are intriguing statistical problems in answering scientific questions," she explains. "For example, in counting whales, how do we account for the ones we are not able to see or hear? Or when identifying whales in photos by their markings, how do we account for the ones without markings? It's the role of the statistician to account for the whales that cannot be identified from obvious data."

Zeh will serve a three-year term as chair of the IWC Scientific Committee.

Then from 2000:
... Matt Coleman asked the chair of that committee, Judy Zeh about the state of the world's whale populations.

JUDY ZEH: Most of the whale, different whale stocks and species in the world, I think, are doing fairly well right now. There are some particular populations that are of very great concern. One of those is the western North Atlantic right whales which live mostly just off the east coast of the United States, and that's a very small population which seems to be having some problems now with lower reproductive and survival rates. So the US Government is working very hard on it, but it is a big problem.

MATT COLEMAN: Environmental groups have been saying that the numbers have been decreasing very rapidly. In fact, there are probably only a few hundred northern right whales left in the world. Is that correct?

JUDY ZEH: Basically the biggest problem is that that was the population that was very badly decimated by the early commercial whaling, and it just hasn't really recovered, so it doesn't seem to be increasing as much as we would like it to. And the last few years there have been some particular problems, that we don't know whether they're related to environmental things or whether there is a bigger problem with the population status.

MATT COLEMAN: What about whale populations in the southern hemisphere? How are they doing?

JUDY ZEH: There is a lot of evidence that humpbacks are increasing very nicely in much of the southern hemisphere, so that's good news. There's less information about some of the other species like blue whales and fin whales, so we can't really say a lot about what they're doing yet. But again, if we keep doing these surveys, we'll gradually get more information about how they're doing.

MATT COLEMAN: One of the best known species of whale is the minke whale. Japan claims that the minke whale is now so abundant that commercial harvesting of that species would be sustainable. Do you agree?

JUDY ZEH: We're in the process of completing the third circumpolar survey, and looking at minke whale estimates for the southern oceans, and as far as I know at present, it's certainly true that if commercial whaling were resumed under the revised management procedure, it could be managed safely.

MATT COLEMAN: How valuable are these scientific research programs that Japan carries out in telling scientists like yourself something useful about whale populations?

JUDY ZEH: Well, they certainly do provide a lot of data. They've been doing a lot of genetic analyses which tells us about stock structure, whether whales in a particular area mix with whales from another area or whether they don't. And this is something that's very important to know for management purposes. So they certainly provide good information on things like that.

MATT COLEMAN: Would you be able to get that information any other way, through a more humane or even a non-lethal research method?

JUDY ZEH: Well, many scientists are using biopsy sampling, and that works very well for humpback whales. It's been a little less successful for minke whales, and I'm not sure that's because it hasn't been tried sufficiently and the best techniques haven't been worked out, or whether - I suspect that maybe that it's somewhat more difficult to biopsy minke whales than humpback whales.

COMPERE: Judy Zeh is the chair of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission which began its annual conference in Adelaide today. Matt Coleman there for us.
Zeh was apparently the convenor steering group for the recent JARPA review.
Finally, this from 2005:

CAN WHALING BE MANAGED TO PROTECT WHALES AND WHALERS?

Judith E. Zeh, UW Department of Statistics

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established in 1946 by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, signed by 14 whaling nations, “to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”. Part of the Convention is a Schedule that contains the actual regulations regarding species and numbers of great whales that can be caught, times and places in which whaling is allowed, etc. Amendments to the Schedule, which require a 3/4 majority vote for adoption, must be “based on scientific findings”. Thus, since its inception, the intent of the IWC has been to base management on science, and one of its standing committees has been the Scientific Committee (SC). The SC meets annually, just before the Commission meets, and the Chair of the SC presents SC findings to the Commission. I will talk about successes and failures of this management process before, during, and since my 1999-2002 term as SC Chair. Successes have come when the Commission obtained and followed good scientific advice. Failures have sometimes occurred because of inadequate scientific advice, but more often because economics or politics got in the way of following good advice. Both successes and failures occurred in the 1960s, when a committee of three scientists appointed by the Commission recommended immediate protection of Antarctic humpback and blue whales from whaling and drastic reductions in fin whale catches. The Commission did protect humpback and blue whales, but delayed reductions in fin whale catches because of pressure from whaling nations. Eventually greater reductions in fin whale catches had to be made to allow the stock to recover. The management procedure developed by the SC during the 1970s proved unworkable because it required classifying whale stocks on the basis of quantities that were difficult to estimate. Meanwhile, some whaling nations stopped whaling and other nations joined the IWC. It now has 66 members, the majority of which are non-whaling nations and many of which could be characterized as anti-whaling nations. This adds a complicating dimension to the “science and policy interface”. During the 1980s, the Commission imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling that is still in effect. However, the Convention allows whaling in spite of the moratorium by nations that objected to its adoption and by any nation under Special Permits for scientific research. Meanwhile, the SC has developed a revised management procedure (RMP) that requires only regular estimates of abundance of a stock and the known catch history. The RMP was tested by simulations of 100 years of catches using it. These simulations took into account uncertainties in a wide range of factors. In my view, whales and whalers would be better protected by use of the RMP to manage whaling than by the moratorium. The SC currently provides advice on aboriginal subsistence catch limits for bowhead whales using a similar management procedure.

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12/15/2006

 

Junko Sakuma's report on whale meat stockpiles

For anyone who wants to read Junko Sakuma's "analysis" of the whale meat stockpiles (covered in the western media at the start of the year), you can find an English copy of her report here.

In the foreword of the report Sakuma writes:
... the [Japanese] public has been quietly expressing their opinion by choosing the option of "not buying." It took a while before their quiet voice to be manifested in the statistics, but now, the figures are clear.
What is clear from the figures is that not only has supply risen, consumption has clearly risen as well. Of course that wasn't the impression Sakuma wanted to give, as evidenced by her failing to refer to the ministry's outgoing stock volumes a single time (these volumes are listed alongside the stockpile figures in the documents released by the ministry). Increasing outgoing stock volumes just don't agree with her desired conclusions.

Nonetheless, Sakuma does present some nice graphs of other things which may be of interest to the avid reader, and the other redeeming feature of the paper is that it's a fantastic example of anti-whaling distortion that deserves to be exposed.

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12/14/2006

 

JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #2 - IMO action

There is an interesting Japanese language news report in the media tonight.

"IMO 82nd MSC - agreement on the creation of a code of conduct to ensure safety from whaling protest activity", says the headline at Environmental Information and Communication Network:
At the 82nd meeting of the International Martime Organization's (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) held in Istanbul from 2006/11/29 until 12/8, it was agreed to create a non-legally binding, voluntary "code of conduct" in relation to ensuring the safety of crew and ship navigation for vessels involved in offshore operations that become the focus of protest activity.

The dangerous obstruction activity that was carried out for 4 weeks from December 2005 to January 2006 against Japan's JARPA fleet engaged in scientific research is behind this "code of conduct".

At the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June 2006, this issue was raised and a resolution was adopted calling for member nations to take measures in accordance with IMO guidelines to ensure the safety of vessels engaged in whale and whaling related research. However, it was later recognized that the IMO has no appropriate guidelines in place corresponding to this resolution, and consequently Japan proposed the creation of the "code of conduct".

The MSC's Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) will consider the proposed "code of conduct" and aim to have it adopted by the MSC. (Fisheries Agency).
Again, the relevant IWC Resolution 2006-2 is here.

The Fisheries Agency press release on the topic adds further detail, noting that the proposal "received strong support from member nations and related international organizations, and the creation of a code of conduct (non-legally binding and voluntary) was agreed by consensus."

For those who read Japanese, the original EIC article is here, and the Fisheries Agency's release is here.

Elsewhere, the Japanese Whaling Association has issued a press release regarding Ian Campbell's alleged ties to Sea Shepherd, after they boasted on their homepage that they had received a call of support from the Senator.


UPDATE: According to the IMO webpage the next meeting of the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) is set for 23-27 July 2007, so this "code of conduct" won't be in place this summer. Of course, because it is voluntary Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace may choose to ignore it anyway, although they'll probably find themselves antagonising their respective flag states.

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12/12/2006

 

Whale meat stockpile update for October 2006 figures

Today the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan released the October figures for the volumes of frozen marine products in circulation, including of course whale meat (item 35 in the figures).

Incidentally, the Ministry also revamped their statistics pages and the figures can now be access from a new URL: http://www.maff.go.jp/www/info/bunrui/bun06.html.

As for the whale meat stockpile figures, they indicate that it was a relatively slow month all round.

Outgoing stock

Just 493 tonnes of outgoing stock for the month of October, 58 tonnes below the corresponding 2005 figure of 551. Nonetheless, the 493 tonne figure is still 35% higher than the corresponding 2004 figure of 364.

Incoming stock

The offshore component of the JARPN II programme concluded in August, and after that the coastal component of the JARPN II programme was conducted near Kushiro, Hokkaido. Reports (such as this Japanese press release from the ministry) indicated that while weather conditions in the first part of September were excellent, from the end of September through to the conclusion of the programme in October, unusual weather conditions saw limited numbers of whales taken (35 minkes in total for the two months, up to 60 were permitted to be taken).

Total stockpile movement

The volume of frozen whale meat overall dropped from the end of September figure of 5,222 tonnes down to 4,962 tonnes.

It now looks as though, unless there are some rather strong consumption figures over the next 4 months, the overall level of stocks in February 2007 will probably be higher than in 2006, although seen in the context of the massive increase in supply due to JARPA II's commencement in 2005/2006, the increase in consumption is still significant, as is the overall trend.

Graphs

1) Here's the updated annual graph showing incoming stocks alongside outgoing stocks. Still with figures for November and December outstanding, 2006 consumption is well above that of 2005 - already 14% higher with two months of the year to go:


2) By region, the biggest change in major stockpile locations was in Kanazawa, where stocks fell by more than 100 tonnes. The JARPA II fleet will (I assume) be returning to this port in April, so the strategy is probably to clear out those stock warehouses in preparation. If the previous January and February's figures are anything to go by we should also expect to see the Tokyo stockpiles start to drop over the next couple of months as well.


3) Incoming stocks graph update. Nothing much special here, supply was only slightly higher in October 2006 than 2005.


4) Outgoing stocks graph update. This one is a little more interesting, because for only the second time for which figures are available, the outgoing stock level did not better the figure from the same month in the previous year (the other occurrence was when the 2005 February figure came in below that of 2004). As I noted earlier though, the October 2006 figure was still significantly higher than that of 2004. Next month's figures should be interesting.


5) Finally, the cumulative 12-month graph. For the 12 months to the end of October incoming stock was 741 tonnes higher than outgoing stock, or in other words, outgoing stock for the 12 months was 91.5% of incoming stock volume.


Raw Figures

I'm maintaining a full set of raw figures in English based on the official ministry figures at FAQ #5 of my Whaling FAQ (scroll to the bottom).

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12/11/2006

 

JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #1

The JARPA II fleet left port back on November 15th. Almost a month has passed.

In the meantime, the extremist organization Sea Shepherd has apparently successfully acquired a fast new ship which is capable of keeping pace with the ICR research fleet, and Greenpeace, who also last year rammed the nose of their ship into the side of the Nisshin Maru, are also sending vessels to the Antarctic.

Already Sea Shepherd are trying to pump up their media hype machine, boasting that they are prepared to "instigate an international incident" in the Antarctic. While we can hope that this is just a load of huff and puff to attract attention and with it donations, again I recall the IWC 2006 Resolution on the safety of vessels engaged in whaling and whale research-related activities, which encouraged
"Contracting Governments to take appropriate measures, consistent with IMO guidelines, in order to ensure that the substance and spirit of this Resolution are observed both domestically and internationally."
I imagine that the Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace vessels are flagged to states that have adhered to these agreements, and I expect that these nations will fulfil their responsibilities should a repeat of last year's dangerous events reoccur this year.

Finally, a report out today suggests that:
The Japanese fleet is believed to be near New Zealand and should be ready to start hunting in two weeks.
In fact, I believe that with almost a month passed since they left port, they will likely already have commenced the research. This year the research is being conducted in Area V and the western part of Area IV (map). In previous years when this area was covered, for example 2004/2005, the fleet departed Japan on November 12 (Japanese ICR link), and the actual research in the Antarctic commenced on 7 December (IWC/SC 2005 pg. 52). With chief eco-terrorist at Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson reporting that they won't be in a position to obstruct the ICR fleet until the last week of December, we can probably estimate that the research fleet might catch 100 or so minke whales between now and that time (not to mention the 10 Fin whales). Of course, as the eco-terrorists themselves admit, they may not be able to find the fleet immediately either.

Incidentally, despite attempts at obstruction last year, the 2006 IWC/SC report indicated that the JARPA II sampling efficiency for minke whales was 95.6% (that's the percentage of whales taken to the number of whales selected for sampling). In the previous 2004/2005 cruise, the sampling efficiency was 94%. In 2003/2004, it was 93%, and in the 2002/2003 cruise, 92% (based on the IWC/SC report for each year). So despite their best efforts, it appears that Greenpeace failed to achieve much last year in terms of their stated aim of "saving whales" (although they must have reaped a lot of donation money). It remains to be seen how extreme the actions taken by Sea Shepherd will be this year, and the extent of any obstruction of the research. They apparently plan to go back to Australia to re-fuel so that they can stick it out for the whole summer, but one hopes they would have their ship impounded by the authorities if they do commit any illegal activities during the first leg of the trip.

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12/08/2006

 

Reviving whale meat cuisine in Yobuko, Saga

This local news item appeared in the Saga Newspaper several days back, although the article seems to have already dropped offline.

Apparently the whale meat consumption tradition was particularly strong in south western Japan (where Yobuko, Saga is located).

Below is my translation (see the comments for the original Japanese text).

Whale to become new speciality - menu making at Yobuko lodge
Participants taste test sashimi, stew - Yobuko lodge, Karatsu city

At the national youth hostel of Yobuko lodge in Karatsu city, Yobuko town, where the local speciality is squid, whale cuisine menu creation is being pursued in an effort to attract more customers. In the New Year there are plans to offer such cuisine, and interested parties were invited to take part in a taste testing event.

The "whale dinner" menu provided will include 10 items, from sashimi to roasted items, to stew, to salad. Those participating enjoyed the peculiar tastes of whale, sampling skin, o-no-mi (tail meat) sashimi, and minced lean meat.

Yobuko lodge's cuisine is popular for it's "ikizukuri" squid , and fresh fish and shellfish. QKamura Service has been operating the lodge as well as those in the nearby towns of Hadomisaki, and Iroha island, since it became the designated management in June.

The manager says that "Yobuko once prospered as a whaling base, but there are almost no shops offering whale cuisine. We hope to keep the tourists coming back again and again by making whale meat Yobuko's new speciality."

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12/07/2006

 

Yomiuri talks to Valgerdur Sverrisdottir

The Yomiuri with a story on the visit of the Iceland foreign minister to Japan (my translation):
Iceland foreign minister: Commercial Whaling "based on science"

Iceland's Foreign Minister, Valgerdur Sverrisdottir (56) who is visiting Japan, responded to an interview with the Yomiuri newspaper in Tokyo on the 6th.

The Foreign Minister stressed the justness of the commercial whaling which Iceland resumed in October, saying that "the whaling has scientific basis". Furthermore, the Foreign Minister emphasised the importance of working together with Japan to increase understanding of whaling, noting that "it's important to co-operate together to broaden correct knowledge throughout the world".

Iceland is also an island nation like Japan, and is a fishing country. By August next year, they have plans to take 78 whales, including 39 for scientific research.

Regarding the resumption of commercial whaling, the Foreign Minister acknowledged huge receipt of emotional anti-whaling letters
from mainly European countries and the USA, reading "I don't want to see any blood". However, the Foreign Minister said "We have a culture that is centred upon fisheries. These resources will not be depleted as the hunts will be limited and based upon scientific research".

(2006/12/7 01:39 Yomiuri Newspaper)

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Just Engaged -- more photos

Here are some of Kana's pictures from the big night back in October when she agreed to marry me!
o(^_^)o

First, as I mentioned in my previous outline of the evening, here is the cake - this picture was right before the big moment. I was sitting there thinking "Forget the photo of the cake! Make a wish, and blow out the candles so I can get on with it!"


That said, now that I look at the photo, that sure is some tasty looking cake... the smaller plate across the table was the dessert that came at the end of the course menu.

Here's another couple of shots from Top Of Shinagawa (by now, "mission complete")



After we stood up from the table, Kana couldn't put her hand down for the rest of the evening...

See? Just happened to have some champagne in the apartment...

See!

We picked up those "2006" champagne flutes together previously - not a bad ocassion to give them their first use.

* * *

Is there something about engagements and bears? When I acquired the ring, the nice people at Tasaki Shinju also provided me with a matching pair of bears. Very cute.

Then just recently I received a card from my Auntie Pam with a bear illustration too (Thanks Auntie Pam!)

Either a co-incidence or a lack of related study on my part...

That's all for this time folks :-)

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Japanese citizens - take care in Australia

There's been a lot of discussion surrounding potential violence against the ICR research fleet in the Antarctic by groups such as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, which led to the IWC adopting Resolution 2006-2, the "Resolution on the safety of vessels engaged in whaling and whale research-related activities" at this year's IWC meeting.

However, while concerned about the possibility of further violence and intimidatory actions against the ICR research fleet in the Antarctic this austral summer, I think there is far greater cause for concern regarding Japanese citizens residing in Australia.

Why? This beer advertisement:


This, in my opinion (story here), demonstrates that the Australian authorities need to tone down their emotional anti-whaling rhetoric, and be very very careful to monitor the situation and not themselves contribute towards incitement of racially based violence on Australian soil.

In light of this distasteful campaign, were I Japanese I would be extremely careful about myself if I were in Australia over the coming summer, whether that be at the pub or down on the beach. The combination of alcohol and the hysteria in Australia surrounding the whaling issue makes me extremely fearful of the possibility of racially motivated violence being born out of this situation.

It was only last year that Sydney experienced major riots related to racial tension.

I do not wish for this advertisement campaign to backfire against Australia or the unjust anti-whaling campaign for fear of the possibility that it might come at the cost of an innocent human being getting seriously injured.

I hope that my fears are misplaced.

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Aussie Media interest in JARPA review

I was surprised to see Australian media shop ABC pick up on the IWC Scientific Committee review of the JARPA programme today, at least until I realised that they were probably contacted with the story by someone looking for publicity, rather than finding the story about it themselves...

Dr Nick Gales of the Australian Antarctic Division is a man on a mission to develop non-lethal whale research methods, to counter the argument that the ICR's research programmes combining both lethal and non-lethal research techniques are the most effective and cost efficient method of obtaining useful results.

Of course, (as I've often noted before) the meaning of "useful results" depends on your perspective - if you are from Australia or New Zealand the chances are that results that help reduce scientific uncertainty associated with inputs of the RMP's catch limit algorithm aren't useful at all - they are terribly inconvenient, as scientific uncertainty is one argument that can be employed to argue against sustainable whaling (to a degree). On the other hand, if you don't have a problem with the concept of whaling, then reducing scientific uncertainties is something to be welcomed, from the perspective of natural resource management.

Anyway, here's the ABC's interview with Nick Gales, with some interjections from yours truly:
TONY EASTLEY: It's never washed with anti-whaling nations, but for the past two decades Japan has invoked science as the justification for its modern-day whale hunts.

Now Japan's scientific whaling program is under review.

An International Whaling Commission delegation is in Tokyo assessing the results of Japan's 18-year whaling program, known as JARPA.

The IWC wants to know whether Japanese whale researchers could've garnered their information through non-lethal means.
Sorry, but I have to interrupt - that's just one of the things that the review will look at. The full set of objectives of the review are noted clearly at the IWC's homepage, with the question on utility of non-lethal methods being the last of four objectives listed.
One of the IWC delegates is Dr Nick Gales from the Australian Antarctic Division. He's speaking here with AM's Karen Barlow.

NICK GALES: We're faced with a fairly large number of papers that they'll bring to us which will describe the science they've done, and most of those papers are supposed to synthesise the work they've been doing over the last 18 years.

So we go through each and every one of those papers in fairly close detail, and we're supposed to then come to some conclusion about especially whether or not the original objectives, or the modified objectives through the 18 years have been fulfilled, and whether that's actually of any use to the IWC.
Sorry to interrupt again, but it's worth remembering that, as noted above, many members of the IWC are against whaling, and thus can be expected to find no use at all in any information that is regarded as useful to scientists in assessing the status of whale stocks such as the Antarctic minke and the degree to which they can be harvested sustainably without fear of negative repercussions.

... but on with the show:
KAREN BARLOW: Because the Japanese have been saying all along that this is necessary for the management of the whales, and it will help them in the long-term, in their long-term survival?

NICK GALES: That's exactly right.
Actually that's an extremely poor representation of the Japanese position. The research is argued to be necessary to provide the scientific basis for sustainable and optimal use (harvest) of abundant whale stocks. Stocks for which long-term survival is in doubt were not the subject of the JARPA research - the Antarctic minke whale was the subject, and even the politically influenced IUCN red list classified this species in the category of "lower risk" in 1996.

But handing it back to Dr. Gales...
The... you know, the Government of Japan have argued very solidly that this science is required, and the only way to achieve this information is to kill whatever number of whales it is that they put their permit in for. The 18 years of JARPA have killed about almost 6,800 whales over that period, minke whales.

KAREN BARLOW: The Australian Government has taken a very firm position against Japan. Does that in any way influence the work you're doing as part of this IWC delegation?

NICK GALES: No, my
A-hem... Dr. Gales...
role is, as a scientist, to come in and assess the science and then to advise the Australian Government and the policy component of the Government about what that science says.

And if the science says… if it was to turn out that this was all terrific and important science, I'd be informing them of that, but if our conclusion is that the science was not necessary, and that the quality of the science was not up to scratch, then I'd equally be reporting that.
I don't like having to say it, but I'm personally doubtful as to whether Dr. Gales can be taken on his word that he is acting purely "as a scientist", without political interest.

Recently, when Nature reported his (currently incomplete, unverified, and unimplemented in the JARPA research area in the Antarctic) development of a technique to age a whale non-lethally via DNA analysis of their shed skin, he was quoted as saying that, although the successful development of the method was unlikely to stop the ICR from employing lethal methods, "at least we can use it to apply more political pressure" (my emphasis).

Thus I have the strong impression that Dr. Gales is not especially interested in objective scientific judgements on these matters...
KAREN BARLOW: This report, if it does find that the lethal research undertaken by Japan is not necessary, could any action be taken of a permanent nature?

NICK GALES: No, the rules under the Article 8, under which scientific whaling is conducted, means that even if… even if there was a consensus that none of this was necessary it would still not compel the Government of Japan to actually change anything, because they don't have to respond to it. All they have do is be a part of the review and conduct the review.
In fact, the 1997 IWC/SC did identify areas for further work, and the ICR indeed worked to address them, as indicated on pages 5-8 of this review document.

Constructive feedback appears to be welcome, even if politically motivated feedback is not.
KAREN BARLOW: So if that's the case, why are you going through this process?

NICK GALES: Well, it's still incredibly important to have a very clear and publicly accessible comment on the review. And it is frustrating, I guess, from many people's point of view, including perhaps my own that, you know, there isn't a direct consequence within the way they're doing their work to our review, but it's very important to have it clearly stated and clearly evaluated.
I'm not sure that Dr. Gales is really looking forward to the results of the review coming out into the public arena at next year's IWC meeting in May, given the way the IWC in 1997 had no choice but to recognise that the IWC/SC review of the JARPA programme at it's halfway point noted that it's results had "the potential to improve management in some ways; and that the results of analyses of JARPA data could thus be used to increase catch limits of minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere without increasing the depletion risk indicated by the RMP-trials for these minke whales"

But that does not matter, because after all as IWC Head of Science Greg Donovan noted recently, "There is, of course, always the problem that politicians on all sides 'selectively' quote only the scientific advice that suits there predefined political position."

We'll see next May (or before, if someone leaks details of the review report) which politicians are most guilty of indulging in this behaviour.
MARK COLVIN: Dr Nick Gales from the Australian Antarctic Division speaking there with Karen Barlow.

That's it from the ABC.

Nick Gales also featured a couple of years back in the 2002 edition of the High North Alliance's "International Harpoon". Click here to read.

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12/06/2006

 

The Overseas Fisheries Consultants Association (OFCA)

One area of focus of the Government of Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme is fisheries related development assistance.

The Overseas Fisheries Consultants Association (OFCA) foundation is apparently one organization involved in the programme. Their homepage (sorry, Japanese only it seems) describes their activities.

You can however get an idea of where in the world they are active from the following pages (which have maps)
I might come back to some of this an translate later, but for now here is my translation of their first page which basically covers what OFCA is, and what they are about:

About OFCA

A great many countries including Japan rely heavily on marine resources, and in people of developing countries also seek animal protein from this source. As such, considering the fact that the global population is increasing, marine resources play an important role as supply source for animal-based protein. However, as seen from the decrease in resources due to unregulated fishing and excessively developed coastal areas, year-by-year the environment for the fisheries industry is becoming increasingly severe, and an important current concern is how we may manage and most effectively utilise these limited marine resources. Above all, amongst developing countries that are in a transition phase from small time fishing to commercial fishing, there are those aiming to move from a "taking" fisheries mentality to one of "fisheries cultivation", those encouraging increased production in fresh water based aquaculture under restricted conditions, and so on, resulting in a variety of development plans being made to promote fisheries in a range of different environments. In such nations, however, from economic and technical perspectives the true situation leaves much to be desired, with operations not proceeding as planned in many places. Therefore assistance from developed nations is required. OFCA is actively working to contribute to fisheries promotion in these developing nations, by utilising our experience and high-caliber technology in the fisheries field, of which our country is placed at the top level in the world.

Founded: 1989 February 28
Jurisdiction: International section, Resource Management Department, Fisheries Agency
Representative: Toru Morikawa (Chairman)


The state of the fisheries industry

The global population broke through 6 billion in 1999, however amongst those, 14% or 840 million people are in a situation where they are not receiving adequate food. Moreover, the UN estimates that by 2050 the global population will reach 10 billion. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 35% of the world's important fisheries resources are in an overdeveloped state, and 47% are currently developed to the maximum levels possible. The 1998 Rome Declaration on the Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries states the importance of striving towards the following.

* The suitable and sustainable use of the world's fishery resources
* Access through an ecosystem approach to fisheries management
* The contribution of fisheries towards the national economic and social goals of states and the attainment of world food security

In light of this, Japan, as the world leader in the fisheries field, is proactively working towards fishing effort reduction, marine resource aquaculture, and maintenance and preservation issues. In developing nations, besides marine resources being a precious source of protein for citizens, they are also indispensable for advancing the livelihoods of small time fishermen, as they are a source of foreign exchange income. Therefore, there is a need for us to continue to proactively expand our co-operation in this field. In turn, in order to plan for future production increases within the fisheries industry, it is necessary to make efforts in new fields, such as of course the further development of aquaculture industry, the servicing and creation of fishing grounds, and the new development of marine resources which are currently not being effectively utilised. In particular, because of excessive protection due to some developed nations and the egos of environmental protection groups, effective utilization is restricted. Due to the over-increase in some species such as whales, ecosystems may be damaged leading to negative repercussions for fishing. Thus it is necessary to plan for the effective utilization of yet-to-be exploited and un-exploited marine resources. OFCA is contributing to the world fishing industry taking into consideration these circumstances.

More to come on Fisheries ODA.

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12/04/2006

 

Another whale meat stockpile graph

The October figures for the Japanese frozen whale meat stockpiles should become available on the ministry's web page within the next week or so, but in the meantime I tried summing the figures up based on a plain old January - December basis. Here's the graph:

Whale meat consumption in Japan is certainly on the increase.

We will only see consumption in 2006 outstrip the incoming stock volume if increases in the final 3 months of the year turn out to be significantly higher than compared to 2005, but considering the big increase in supply from JARPA II, this is probably unlikely to eventuate this year.

Nonetheless, based on the increasing consumption trend, by the end of February (prior to the by-products from the second year of JARPA II hitting the figures), the trough level of the stockpile seems almost certain to come in below the low levels observed in 2006 and 2005 (2898 and 2837 tonnes respectively).

The first I remember hearing of a "stockpile" of whale meat in Japan was in February 2006 this year, when WDCS raised the issue. It might be an interesting exercise to identify the first time an anti-whaling NGO criticised Japan's scientific whaling on the basis of increasing stockpile levels.

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12/03/2006

 

Geishoku Labo's whale meat sales approach

Geishoku Labo LLC's homepage has a page explaining their sales approach. Here's my translation:

Background of sales promotion of Whale meat in the "office cafeteria and hospital food catering market"

- With the persmission of the Government of Japan, the scale of the Antarctic whaling research which commenced last year expanded to double the size of previous research. Because of this, the production of whale meat will also increase.

- Due to the fear that conducting PR activity to sell the increase in existing markets "may unnecesarily over-stimulate the market, and may result in increases in market prices", the "catering market including office cafeteria, hospital and lunch services" was identified as a controllable preferential market.

- Inspite of the increase production is limited, and the approximate 2000 tonne increase is certainly not large when compared with the size of the scale of the nationwide restaurant market.

- In order to provide this limited supply at stable prices, with the support of the Fisheries Agency and Institute of Cetacean Research "Geishoku Labo LLC" was created as a direct distribution company.

The difference to existing sales channels

- The existing whale meat sales channels are through specialist producers and nationwide central wholesale markets, and those operators decide their retail prices, and their respective sales volumes and prices fluctuate.

- In contrast, the new sales company is in a position to be able to fix annual retail prices and sales volumes in advance.

- Furthermore, we resolved that due to the price and flavour, by proposing new methods of utilising whale meat as an ingredient instead of existing preparation methods, there would likely be interest.

- As for raw ingredients, we have arrangements to make possible supply in a processed form (small size / mince).

Can I really use this in my menu?

- Because there is not enough supply to be able to use whale meat as an everyday staple ingredient, please think about using it for menu diversification and special meals.

- For example, by mixing whale meat as an ingredient along with other types of meat (eg. chicken 70%, 20% whale breast, 10% blubber), nutrional balance can be improved as well as realising a unique texture. Of course the average meal cost can also be suppressed.

- Whale blubber contains large amounts of EPA and DHA, which is said to be beneficial for the health.

- Whale meat is an ingredient with various possibilities in preparation techniques, from use as sashimi like fish, to use like with other meats. From the familiar childhood taste of whale, to use as an easily edible health food, whale meat offers plenty of scope for menu developments.


Geishoku Labo was established this year with an apparent goal of selling up to 1000 tonnes of whale meat annually.

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