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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



Is the UK anti-whaling pamphlet for real?

Reuters has an poor quality article about the UK's new recruitment drive.
Leading anti-whaling nation Britain set out on Wednesday to recruit more like-minded nations to join the International Whaling Commission and head off a drive by Japan to resume commercial hunting of cetaceans.

How long it is before the "like-minded" nations and their media finally start to realize that stacking votes at the IWC isn't going to stop commercial whaling over the medium to long term?

"The IWC is the only body mandated to manage whales so, while we are grateful to the Japanese for raising the issue, we will not be going to their meeting," a spokesman for Britain's Department of the Environment told Reuters.

Wakey wakey - there is nothing stopping any nation, including Japan, from exercising their rights under the convention and quitting the body altogether.

... the brochure notes that southern hemisphere blue whale numbers have slumped to 1,700 now from 240,000 in 1990. The humpback whale population has fallen to 25,000 from 115,000.

240,000 blue whales as of 1990!? Is that really what the brochure says, or has the author of this article got it completely wrong? I'll assume that it's a typo for "1900" by someone...

"Twenty years on, the reasons for the moratorium remain valid," it said. "Many populations and some entire species are still under threat of extinction."

Remain valid? The reasons were hardly valid in the first place. As the FAO observer noted at the time the moratorium was adopted:

... a moratorium on all whaling ... is a completely unselective measure. Given the differing status of the various stocks, and the fact that virtually all those species or stocks that are seriously depleted are already receiving complete protection, there seems to be no scientific justification for a global moratorium.

Alas, this pamphlet is probably as much as one may have expected from the UK government (we heard such indications previously).

This Reuters article itself (authored by Jeremy Lovell) was uncharacteristically low in quality as well. One might have expected such content from the WDCS or Greenpeace, but Reuters should take their responsibility to report the news a little more seriously.



JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #16

It looks like a confirmation today that the New Zealand RNZAF Orion that filmed the Japanese whaling fleet last week was sent there expressly for that purpose:
Spokesman Nick Maling said the New Zealand Air Force was in the area to film the whalers' tactics so they could release the footage to the public.
Surely the Orions have better uses to be put to than this, but given the highly politicised nature of the whaling issue in New Zealand, perhaps no one sees this for the waste of resources that it is (Nick Maling has the rather dull videos up at YouTube).

The linked article is, by the way, just a frustrated whinge from Sea Shepherd about the government not releasing the co-ordinates. The government is doing the right thing and standing firm:
Mr Maling said the Southern Ocean was "vast and very dangerous" and the Government did not want to be connected to such activities.
There may be some very minor domestic political backlash over this, but it's a darn sight better than smearing one's own name in the international community.

Speaking of which, Sea Shepherd's second ship, the Robert Hunter, is now known to have been registered with the United Kingdom. However, like Belize, the UK has confirmed that it will deregister the vessel:

This month, the Robert Hunter joined Mr Watson's slower flagship, Farley Mowat, which is sailing without a national flag after authorities in Belize deregistered the ship, citing a Sea Shepherd press release saying it planned to inflict damage on whaling ships.

Soon after, the Japanese Government asked Britain to move against the Robert Hunter.

A British Foreign Office spokesman told The Age that Japan's embassy asked Britain to "control" the Robert Hunter's activities as far as was legally possible, as Sea Shepherd had said it was aiming to disrupt Japanese whaling operations.

The spokesman said the office informed the British Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen of the approach.

Registrar David Wright said the Robert Hunter was registered as a pleasure vessel and her activities with Sea Shepherd were inconsistent.

"The registrar therefore took the decision to remove her from the register," Mr Wright said. He gave Sea Shepherd 30 days' notice from January 12.

So, just another two weeks now before Sea Shepherd is officially operating not one, but two pirate vessels. Also just two weeks left before they have to go and get fuel from somewhere, as well.

Greenpeace? Probably still a couple of days away from the Ross Sea area, and they've also got to try to find the whaling fleet as well. Sea Shepherd seem to have an advantage in this respect, as they have two vessels rather than just one. Yet they've been unable to find them, so the chances for Greenpeace are probably not much better.

Finally, want to see some more bad taste anti-Japan propaganda? Click here. It's D-grade rubbish.

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Joji Morishita at Reuters and HNA on whale downlistings

Two articles of interest:

1) Joji Morishita at Reuters on the IWC stalemate - plus an ultimatum of sorts. Readers outside Japan may like to note that it's an election year in Japan, thus talk of Japan leaving the IWC if it fails to fulfil it's mandate should be taken very seriously. Whether or not public support is growing for such a move is something that I think some polling should be done on. An editorial last year in the Nikkei following IWC 58 recommended (even further) patience.

My view? What is patience likely to result in? More waiting. Unless the IWC member numbers miraculously increase to 110, nothing fruitful is likely to come out of the IWC meetings, and scientific advice will continue to be ignored, no matter how much or little credibility it has. This is a bad situation, but can one let it stand like this forever?

2) The High North Alliance brings us news of the IUCN red list revisions pertaining to whales. Various down listings occurred, but the fin whale remains regarded by the IUCN as "endangered". We'll be looking out for further details of the reason for this - I imagine that the same criteria as with the previous assessment still applies.

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Hakodate food festival

Here's another English translation of a Japanese article from Brain News Network, a site running out of Hokkaido (Japan's northern most main island). This story is actually from October 2, 2006, but I only just found it recently:
Licking lips over "Gagome Kelp noodles" and "Barbecued whale" - Food Stuffs Genki Festival opens in Hakodate

10/02 (Monday) 24:00

On the 1st, the "7th Food Stuffs Genki Matsuri" was opened, and bustled with many city residents keen to get their hands on local food items.

The "Food Stuffs Genki Festival" is conducted by 8 food stuffs producers and industry groups, which make up a council for the invigoration of the Hakodate regions foodstuffs trade. Each group carefully selected the very best of their products to the event, selling them on the spot.

Appropriately for such an event held in Hakodate, where whales are hauled and landed, many whale based products were on offer. The freshly fried whale meat croquettes on sale were so popular that it couldn't be fried quickly enough to keep pace. Also, whale bacon priced at 1,000 yen per 100 grams - half the usual price - sold like hot cakes.

Also, the southern Hokkaido speciality product of udon noodles using gagome kelp, popular for it's healthiness, was available for taste testing at 100 yen a bowl. The event visitors formed a line to make their purchases, and slurped up the light green coloured noodles with lumps of kelp.

At the ceremony held ahead of the opening, Hakodate Mayor, Hiroshi Inoue greeted the event. "This event is a collection of not only marine products, but also agricultural products, and is being held to bring out the energy of Hakodate. Together lets steadily put our powers together and keep Hakodate lively."

One visitor to the event said, "It's good be able to see such a variety of locally made products. The prices are cheap, and I hope there are more such opportunities as this in future as well"
If I'm translating that correctly, it was 1,000 yen for 100 grams of whale bacon, not 500 yen for a 100 grams - either way, it's still kind of expensive if you ask me.

Anyway, this event is similar to that which was held recently in Ishinomaki. During my New Year holiday I also visited a local producers event in Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture. There was no whale there, although some whale meat products are on sale at Matsuyama airport. Kochi profecture, on the other side of Ehime, apparently had whaling operations working in Tosa bay in the past, and this was where the souvenir product was from. These days some fisheries operators in the Tosa area conduct whale watching operations during the warmer months of the year. The product on sale at the airport was made from a smaller cetacean species, the harvest of which is managed by the Japanese government.

The e-kujira site has news from the 6th festival in Hakodate.

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Japanese media on UK IWC member recruitment drive

A couple of brief reports regarding the moves by the UK to try to get additional nations to join the IWC have appeared in the Japanese media. As always, I'll give English readers my best effort translations.

From the Nihon Keizai Shinbun:
England aims to expand "anti-whaling group" at IWC

(London - Kazushige Yokota) - The United Kingdom Government is aiming to enlarge the "anti-whaling group" within in International Whaling Commission (IWC). It is urging around a dozen non-member European nations including Poland, Turkey, Greece to join the IWC, pleading that "by joining the IWC we can save the whales".

At last year's annual IWC meeting in June, for the first time ever a resolution supporting a resumption of commercial whaling was passed by a single vote majority, which has seen a sense of crisis rise amongst the "anti-whaling group". For an actual resumption of whaling, a three quarters majority agreement is required, and both whaling and anti-whaling sides are aiming to expand the size of their respective groups through recruitment of new member nations.
That's a typically tame piece which is to my mind representative of the general way in which the Japanese media view this issue - a bit of a storm in a teacup. Note that the "by joining the IWC we can save the whales" quote is a translation of a Japanese translation of the original English quote, so it's probably coming out differently due to the old "chinese whispers" problem.

This other article from Jiji Tsuushin seems slightly slanted towards the Japanese position:
2007/01/27-14:14 Constructing an anti-whaling majority = UK Environment Ministry soliciting IWC non-member nations

(London - 27th - Jiji) The UK's Environment, Food and Agriculture Ministry announced plans on the 27th aimed at increasing anti-whaling forces by strengthening their efforts to urge nations in Europe and Africa which are non-International Whaling Commission member nations to join. From next week, they plan to distribute materials pleading for the protection of whales, with the objective of boosting non-members to join the IWC.
* * *

The BBC has what I consider to be a rather good article on the issue here. Here's some bits of it:
The British government will publish a brochure this coming week aimed at encouraging nations opposed to whaling to join the Commission.

It says whales are "sensitive, social creatures", with some species risking extinction. Japan says these arguments are "old rhetoric and half-truths".


The UK's recruitment brochure ... says that protecting whales for future generations is a "global responsibility".

"Some whales are particularly at risk of extinction because their populations remain endangered following past exploitation from commercial whaling," it continues.

In two forewords, the distinguished natural history broadcaster David Attenborough writes, "There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea", while Tony Blair makes a direct call to arms.

"We urge your government to join the UK and the other anti-whaling nations in the IWC," writes the British Prime Minister, "to ensure that our generation meets its global responsibility to protect whales."

The arguments contained in the brochure were dismissed by Japan's deputy whaling commissioner Joji Morishita.

"It is always depressing to see the same old anti-whaling rhetoric," he told the BBC News website.

"Its basic position is that commercial whaling automatically means extinction. As we want everlasting whaling, which is totally different from the past industrial whaling of western countries which regarded whales only as an exhaustive industrial material, we would avoid extinction at any cost."

I think Joji Morishita sums it up very well. Perhaps another reference in there to the fact that the whalers support protection of species that are not recovering, or are still at very low levels of abundance, may also give a favourable impression.
Mr Morishita also warned that the IWC could break up without agreement on the eventual return to regulated commercial hunting.
I think this is probably something that will be made explicitly clear at the IWC Normalization meeting this month. The ongoing rhetoric from the anti-whaling nations gives the impression that they don't take the possibility seriously - or otherwise they are simply happy to be playing an "all or nothing" game, despite long term whale conservation being at stake here. If the IWC breaks down, I can't see that there would ever be any putting it back together again.
Japan is regularly accused by conservation campaigners of using fisheries aid to buy the votes of smaller countries in the IWC.

In reality, both pro- and anti-whaling blocs have sought to recruit like-minded members in recent years.
Very good from the BBC! Both sides of the argument basically presented evenly. My cap goes off to the article author Richard Black.

* * *

Greenpeace and Chris Carter have voiced support for the UK's pamphlet (here and here).

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JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #15 - Sea Shepherd frustration

In the aftermath of the excitement around the rather dull RNZAF Orion video footage of some of the ICR vessels in action, predictably Sea Shepherd are upset at their lack of ability to find the whalers (the Farley Mowat has been at sea since December 29). They have put up a plea for assistance on their website, offering a reward to anyone who will leak them the co-ordinates of the JARPA vessels.

A Frank Watson article appearing in various Australian media provides some extra colour:
Two Sea Shepherd ships have unsuccessfully searched for the Japanese whalers in the Ross Sea for the past 12 days.

"The New Zealand Air Force flew over the whaling fleet in the Ross Sea on Friday and filmed them killing whales, but the Government won't reveal the co-ordinates," Captain Watson said from the protest ship Farley Mowat.

"We'll offer a $25,000 reward to get someone to leak the co-ordinates.

"We'll save that much on fuel."

Captain Watson said the air force plane had been searching for illegal fishing but did nothing except take pictures.

As usual, Watson likes to blame the Japanese for everything, including his own inability to make good use of the donations he attracts:

"Japan requested New Zealand not to release the co-ordinates . . . That makes the New Zealand Government complicit in criminal activity, as what Japan is doing is illegal."

Previously, Chris Carter told media (see "view video") that "for a public safety reason we won't be releasing these co-ordinates to Greenpeace". Once again later, responding to Japanese concerns about the safety of the ICR crew, he confirmed that the co-ordinates would not be released.
Sea Shepherd ships Farley Mowat and Robert Hunter have another three weeks before they must return to port to refuel.

This is the real problem for Sea Shepherd now, and it's just a matter of time. They have to dock again somewhere to re-supply, but I don't think any government - even those of Australia and New Zealand - will want to risk the condemnation of the international community that would follow if they allowed Sea Shepherd to set out for the Antarctic again, now that the Farley Mowat is sailing without a flag.

"We believe the whalers are within 400 nautical miles of us, but we have information the Japanese are using satellite tracking to find out our position every day. That way they can keep clear of us," Captain Watson said.

"We have also found out US Naval Intelligence has been tracking us by satellite and giving information to the Japanese."
So apparently now, not only Japan and New Zealand but the USA too is colluding against him. Are his suggestions true? Probably not. Last year he claimed that he had "received a tip from a reliable source in Japan, that Japan has dispatched a warship to the Southern Ocean" which never eventuated, giving the impression that it was an hysterical fabrication.

The real concern out of all of this is that depending on how frustrated Watson is, he may take even more seriously dangerous actions to try to make the most of his last chance to do what he said he would set out to achieve. I'm sure the ICR folks are aware of this, and will surely be doing everything they can to ensure their safety.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza left Auckland on Friday and will reach the Ross Sea late this week to join the hunt.

But the two groups hate each other almost as much as they hate the whalers.

Greenpeace said it did not know the co-ordinates of the whalers but would not tell Sea Shepherd even if it did.

"We have a principle of peaceful protest, which Sea Shepherd does not," Greenpeace spokeswoman Sara Holden said.

Being a great big nuisance is apparently still "peaceful" by whatever standards and principles Greenpeace holds itself to, even though it only results in delaying the inevitable. The ICR will remain in the Antarctic until they are done - simple as that.

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Junko Sakuma's report on "missing" whale meat

Japanese "freelance journalist" (anti-whaling activist) Junko Sakuma has released a new report.

This time she's convinced herself (and the no-doubt willingly gullible WDCS) that 500 tonnes of minke whale meat has mysteriously vanished (she speculates that it's been dumped at sea, without providing any such evidence). She bases her theory on the fact that her own estimates of how much meat would result from the first season of the new JARPA II programme turned out to be wrong.

Apparently Junko wrote in a January newsletter last year, before the JARPA fleet returned, that it should result in 3,688 tonnes of minke whale meat. I suppose she looked at the 1,895.1 tonnes of minke meat that was sold by the ICR following the 2004/2005 JARPA season (comprised of meat from 440 minke whales), and figured that the average amount of meat on a minke whale must be 4.3 tonnes. 4.3 multipled by 853 actually works out to 3667.9 tonnes, not 3,688 tonnes, so I don't know for sure how she calculated it (no methodology provided).

The actual figure for 2005/2006 by-products marketed was 3,168.7 tonnes, which was below her expectations (which in turn were based on her own assumptions).

As with her "analysis" of stockpile figures, Junko either only considers information that fits with her desired fairy story, or is simply not that well-informed. In her article she ignores all of the following (and probably various other factors which haven't sprung to mind):

1) The fact that the average size of male and female Antarctic minke whales differs (females are longer and weigh more). The figures presented on this chart indicate that males grow to 8.5 m and weigh in at 7.1 tonnes, while females grow to 8.9 m and hit 7.6 tonnes.

2) The fact that the ratio of males to females sampled each year isn't constant. There is thus the potential for fluctuations in the amount of whale meat produced each year. In the 2004/2005 season, 59.8% of whales sampled turned out to be female, where as in the 2005/2006 season, the figure was only 45.8%. Naturally the amount of whale meat in the latter case would be expected to be less, due to the lower proportion of females in the sample. For this reason alone, Junko's assumption that there is a basically constant average yield each year is implausible. And it doesn't end there...

3) The fact that researchers have observed decreasing nutritional condition in minke whales during the period of the JARPA programme (see for example the Japanese Government JARPA review papers related to trends in blubber thickness). Given this result indicating decreasing blubber thickness over time, we would expect the average meat yield per whale to trend downwards as well (as opposed to a constant average yield throughout, notwithstanding the male : female sample ratio issue noted above, which introduces extra variability). Due to the low number of females sampled in the 2005/2006 season, the average yield was possibly below the trend, whereas in the previous two seasons when a higher number of females were sampled, the average yield was possibly above the trend (the 2003/2004 season also saw more females than males sampled). There is no mention of this from Junko in her article - and in fact she illustrates her ignorance of the JARPA results by claiming that "nobody has talked about the possible shrinking of the whales".
(Furthermore, this simple analysis here also does not consider differences between the two distinct stocks of Antarctic minke whales that are recognised to exist within the JARPA research area)

4) The fact that the sampling methodology changed between the old JARPA programme which ended in 2004/2005 and the new JARPA II programme which commenced in 2005/2006. Junko makes no mention of how a probable change in sampling representativeness might affect the comparability of the JARPA and JARPA II yields (for example, might the JARPA II sampling methodology result in more younger whales being sampled than with the original JARPA methodology?)

For the record:

From "Review of general methodology and survey procedure under the JARPA":
"Although JARPA was originally planed to take samples from all primary sighted minke whales with a maximum of two whales from each school, it was reduced two to one since 1992/93 season"
From "Plan for the Second Phase of the Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic (JARPA II)"
"A maximum of two minke whales per school sighted will be taken by random sampling."
I.e., one whale per school was sampled for most of the JARPA programme, whereas JARPA II has gone back to sampling up to two minke whales per school.

In conclusion, if I were a teacher of investigative journalism, Junko would be flunked in my class - twice already.

* * *

Junko notes that she picked up some "Blue whale" meat from somewhere. Blue whale in Japanese is "shiro-nagasu kujira", where as Fin whale is simply "nagasu kujira". She says
"Anybody can ask me to for the DNA test."
I would suggest that instead of sitting around writing up fairy tales about vanishing whale meat, she should report this sale to the authorities immediately, along with the location of the "average supermarket", in addition to her proof of purchase. It is illegal to market the proceeds of blue whales caught in fixed fishing nets (of which there have been no reports), and the FAJ regards this species as endangered. A person such as Junko, who represents an environmental NGO group, ought to take more responsible actions than this.

She also says the meat didn't taste any good - everyone has their likes and dislikes, and clearly many do enjoy it. Perhaps it's also possible that Junko's cooking skills are as poor as her analysis skills and investigative journalism.

Final question on this point - why is her photo of the meat in black and white? Maybe she ought to buy a new mobile phone...

* * *

Regarding the market for whale meat, she notes a fisheries industry report indicating a sharp rise in market price (retail prices, presumably), and also acknowledges that the 267.1 tonnes of fin meat obtained from JARPA II sold out "immediately" (I hope the Icelanders are reading this).

However, Junko complains that the price of fin whale meat was "Too cheap!", because it was sold at the same price as Minke and Bryde's whale meat. If she calms down and puts aside her preconceived ideas she will realise that the government is not setting the price based on scarcity or to "make a killing" on the deal - the government is regulating the price so that a certain proportion of the research costs will be recovered.

Finally, with respect to what she regards as a "campaign" (not just plain old media interest) to boost whale meat sales (involving privately owned Nippon Television) Junko says:
... the achievement of the campaign is unpredictable. We will continue careful observation to see if the whale meat sales will increase as they expect.
Junko only needs to review the recent stockpile figures without her blinkers on to find the answer.

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Chris Carter: "Is it science or is it butchery?"

Today I sent off the following (less the hyperlinks):
To: Hon Chris Carter
CC: Hon Jim Anderton


I commend you for your statements to the media, in relation to the video footage the RNZAF Orion captured of the Institute of Cetacean Research's vessels. In particular, your assurance that, "for a public safety reason we won't be releasing these co-ordinates to Greenpeace" was encouraging. I congratulate you for confirming the distance between the New Zealand Government and Greenpeace's tactics.

As an observation, you ask the question of the activity, "Is it science or is it butchery?"

Unfortunately, this "a) or b)" style of question provides the New Zealand public with insufficient information about the objectives of the ICR's research programme to be able to develop an informed opinion on the matter. As I'm sure you, as a representative of New Zealand to the IWC have been briefed, the ICR research programmes include the objective of increasing knowledge of the biological parameters of various "stocks" of whales, particularly the Antarctic minke whale stocks, with the ultimate objective of improving our ability to manage them sustainably (the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling calls for both conservation of these resources, as well as efforts to make for their "optimum utilization"). This work is common in marine resource management science. The IWC itself in Resolution 1997-5 recognised that while the results were "not required for management" under the Revised Management Procedure (RMP), "the Scientific Committee ... notes that these results have 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". Also worth noting is that the Scientific Committee also said that "there were non-lethal methods available that could provide information about population age structure (e.g. natural marking) but that logistics and the abundance of minke populations in Areas IV and V probably precluded their successful application."

What we see in this is that, yes indeed, scientific results have been produced, and that they have the potential to allow for commercial whaling operations on a larger scale than would have been possible without the results of JARPA. Are the results strictly necessary under the RMP? No; however the statements of the IWC Scientific Committee make it clear that better management is possible with the data being available. Without it, while management under the RMP would remain possible, due to the RMP's minimal data requirements, more uncertainty would exist. No honest resource manager would hope to have less information available when making a management decision, particularly so when it concerns the conservation of whale resources (an area with a very bad track record up until recently).

In 2007, the situation persists today. Few New Zealanders are likely aware that members of the IWC Scientific Committee from Australia, South Africa, the United States of America, as well as Japan are currently using catch-at-age analyses from the JARPA research in VPA work, as a component of the IWC Scientific Committee's assessment of the condition of the Antarctic minke whale stocks (as in section 10.1.2 of the SC Report for IWC 58). Even fewer New Zealanders are likely aware of what catch-at-age analyses and VPA are, and to whom they are useful, to begin with.

Of course, while it is the Japanese Government's objective to make for the "optimum utilization" of whale resources, it's the New Zealand Government's objective to make for as little consumptive utilization of whale resources as possible, preferably none at all. This is a perfectly valid position. However, the grounds for this position ought to be expressed more carefully. Given that Japan's position is to make for conservation of whale resources so that they may be consumptively utilized in an optimum manner, rational and informed New Zealanders will understand why Japan has been supporting these research programmes for the past two decades. Likewise, many New Zealanders will also understand why the New Zealand Government chooses to criticise the research programmes at every opportunity, as we have seen in the past (and as I suspect we will hear again this year) that they help to strengthen the scientific aspects of Japan's arguments for safe, sustainable commercial whaling.

With this, New Zealanders will realise that the answer to the question you posed is that, yes, it is science, qualified by the fact that the objective of the science is to make more "butchery" possible. In this respect, perhaps the simplest answer to your question is thus "Both".

At any rate, it is clear that one can not produce an informed answer on the question merely by viewing footage taken from the RNZAF Orion. That of course may not be what politics is all about, but my concern is that it does not serve conservation efforts, for which you are responsible.

As I like to be constructive in my criticism, I would finally like to suggest a more cutting and appropriate question that be asked of the New Zealand public:

"Regardless of the immediate and indirect objectives of whaling, is it acceptable in any form?"

Best Regards,
My letter was in response to this news.

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More whale meat stockpile context

An hysterically titled Dominion Post article, "Carter sharpens whaling knives", opens with the following:
"New Zealand is sharpening diplomatic knives over whaling, with Conservation Minister Chris Carter accusing Japan of being aggressively nationalistic by killing whales in the Southern Ocean."
The article content doesn't support that content at all - I was very disappointed to be re-reading the same article again, just dressed up in a different newspaper-sell. However at the end of the article reference is made to the "whale meat stockpile" in Japan.

Mr Carter said that, despite killing nearly 1000 minke whales, the Japanese were not eating the meat.

About 4000 tonnes of unsold whale meat was in warehouses.

As we know from looking at the stockpile figures with our own eyes
Given that we are looking at annual consumption in excess of 8,000 tonnes per annum, and that slightly more than half that amount remained on the stockpiles at the end of November, 4 full months before meat from JARPA II hits the stockpiles, and probably 7 months before the meat is actually sold off through the wholesale markets (usually during July), we can see just how hollow this frequently quoted claim is.

Nonetheless, here's some more context for the whale meat stockpile figure:

1) Whale meat stocks as a percentage of total frozen marine products

Previously for June 2006, I noted that the whale meat "stockpile" constituted just 0.53% of the volume of marine products in cold / frozen storage. Updating this figure for November 2006, the whale meat stockpile of 4,403 tonnes represented just 0.33% of the total 1,324,247 tonnes of product in stock.

2) Whale meat stockpile versus total monthly consumption

Around 500,000 tonnes of various marine products came on to the stockpile and left the stockpile during the same month. That is, even if the entire stockpile was suddenly consumed, it would still represent less than a single percentage of total consumption of marine products. What then, is the purpose of Greenpeace's recent statement that "95% of Japanese never or rarely eat whale meat", if not simply to mislead? The results of such a survey question would remain largely unchanged even if no "stockpile" existed.

3) European beef stockpiles and stockpile management

In Europe, truly massive amounts of beef are stocked, in what has been dubbed "Beef Mountain". In 2001, the outbreak of mad-cow disease and subsequent drop in consumption saw levels rise to a whopping 1 million tonnes. By 2004 the stockpile had been completely sold off, leading to a different problem - no supply. According to Richard Haddock from the UK's National Union of Farmers:

“Any good housekeeper would have, you also should have something in reserve. And it is a little bit worrying that there is nothing in reserve. What happens if we do have a drought somewhere in the world or heaven forbid, another Chernobyl. A good Government should keep something reserve, but at the moment there is no red meat anywhere in the world.”
The UK delegation to IWC 58 in St. Kitts is on record as follows:

"the UK believed that because of a stockpile of whale meat, Japan's market is already flooded which has led to falling prices. The UK therefore thought it unlikely that any whaling industry could provide economic relief to the coastal communities."
For this, amongst other reasons, the UK voted against an interim annual relief quota of 150 minke whales for Japan's four traditional whaling communities. It seems very unfair that the UK believes others must mismanage their food resources before the UK might consider making any concession on such a matter.

4) New Zealand and Australian beef export industries

How much beef do New Zealand and Australia export, and how much is it worth to them?
Some Japanese observers, perhaps unsurprisingly, believe that protection of these lucrative beef export industries and desire for further development of the beef market in Japan is one of the true reasons for the fierce opposition to whaling by Australia and New Zealand. At the same time, there is little wonder that Japan would rather produce more of it's food by itself than see it's food self-sufficiency reduced even further (already extremely low at just 40%).

* * *

UPDATE: I summarized this information in a brief comment to "Your Say" at Stuff:
Chris Carter is the latest to claim that 4,000 tonnes of whale meat stockpiled in warehouses around Japan is some kind of proof that the Japanese aren't consuming whale meat. Greenpeace also frequently state a recent poll result that showed less than 5% of Japanese people eat whale meat, claiming that it supports the same conclusion.

These claims are devious and misleading without context.

New Zealand exported 375,254 tonnes of beef in 2006, including 37,049 tonnes to Japan.

Japan also has a total stockpile of marine products that generally exceeds 1 million tonnes at any given point in time (1,324,247 tonnes at the end of November 2006).

The reason for so few Japanese people eating whale meat is because 4,000 tonnes represents a minuscule level of supply.

Is New Zealand's true opposition to whaling perhaps related to a desire to expand beef exports to Japan?
Possibly a bit too long to get published, but hopefully it starts to wake the journalists from their slumber.




IWC Normalization meeting news - more details

Here are the press releases for the IWC Normalization meeting issued by the JFA (Japanese and English).

More on the story from AP:

TOKYO: Japan will host an unofficial meeting for International Whaling Commission members focussing on the status of whale populations, an official said Friday, as Tokyo continues to push for an end to the IWC's commercial whaling ban.

Japanese officials say IWC meetings tend to focus too much on whether whaling itself is good or bad, leaving little room for discussion on the current status of the world's whale "resources."

"Nothing has been decided at IWC meetings ... and our positions are split from the beginning," said Hideaki Okada, an official of Japan's Fisheries Agency, which announced the Feb. 13-15 conference.

"We want to create an atmosphere in which we can reduce confrontations as much as possible and have more serious, honest talks," he said, adding that the Tokyo conference may produce a recommendation to the IWC.

The announcement of the conference comes amid news reports that Britain, which largely opposes whaling, is trying to recruit more non-IWC member countries into the IWC's anti-whaling faction.

The planned conference will study ways to restore the IWC's functions "as a resource control body," Japan's Fisheries Agency said in a statement. It did not elaborate.


Japan has invited all 72 IWC member countries — including strongly anti-whaling Australia, Britain and the U.S. — to the planned meeting next month.

Okada refused to say how many countries have agreed to attend, saying the agency is still tallying up applications.

The conference, held outside the official IWC framework, is the first of its kind. Okada said.

It comes as Britain tries to recruit new countries to the IWC's anti-whaling camp, amid fears that the commercial hunting ban is under growing threat from a Japan-led campaign, Kyodo News agency reported.

Britain's Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw will invite representatives from about 25 countries, which are not current IWC members, to a meeting in London next week. The conference has been organized in conjunction with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Kyodo reported Thursday.

It will be interesting to hear more about this meeting in London. I'm curious as to how many other potential "anti-whaling" nations remain that have not yet adhered to the ICRW.



JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #14 - Aiding and abetting?

The New Zealand government, through "Conservation" Minister Chris Carter, has released video footage taken from on board an RNZAF Orion purporting to be "undertaking surveillance against illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean".

This is a genuine task that these Orion airships are utilised for, but is the simultaneous departure of the Greenpeace Esperanza vessel and this surveillance flight a pure co-incidence?

One suspects that the co-ordinates of the position of the ICR vessels and the direction in which they were heading will have been passed on to Greenpeace by the New Zealand government, which should find the information useful in tracking the whalers down around a week or so from now, so they can really get stuck into their propaganda campaign.

Sea Shepherd, who have been at sea since December (without a flag state), will surely be fuming if Greenpeace are able to find the whalers before them, in the case of such assistance having occurred. Expect another out lash from Paul Watson if this prediction holds true.

As for the video footage itself (no audio - courtesy of TV3), it's very tame stuff. There is no blood and struggling like we saw when Greenpeace were engaging in their "whale saving" tactics last season. The New Zealand government, if it has indeed aided Greenpeace by providing information on the position of the ICR vessels, will have to bear the negative consequences for the whale welfare statistics of the hunt on it's own conscience.

New Zealand taxpayers must also be asking themselves why the air force vessels are wasting time filming the legal activities of the ICR fleet instead of carrying out their real duties (which leads to the suspicion that they received "special orders" for this particular mission...)

* * *

UPDATE: Another article at the Southland Times has more details:
Mr Carter said the a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion undertaking surveillance against illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean had "come across" the Japanese whaling vessels.
Mr Carter said the government had decided to take the "very unusual step" of releasing the footage to "allow the public to make up their own minds about Japan's whaling activities".
The fleet had been prepared as the vessels were clearly labelled "research" and had a large sign with their website address printed on it, he said.

Mr Carter would not be drawn on where exactly in the Ross Sea the footage had been taken and said the co-ordinates would not be released to Greenpeace.

We will have to take the Honourable Minister at his word!
Mr Carter said he had a meeting with Greenpeace onboard the ship last Friday and while he supported their commitment to the issue he and the Government were concerned about the tactics used.

Among the tactics Greenpeace used was manoeuvring their inflatable boats between the harpoon and the whale, a move which Mr Carter said he was concerned about.

"While I applaud their work, the Southern Ocean is a dangerous place and we are concerned that we are going to have loss of life if the protests continue in the same way."

Mr Carter said filming of the fleet could not be ruled out in the future and they would continue to "keep an eye on the fleet".

I struggle to understand why the NZ government would want to film the ICR fleet further when their objectives are supposedly surveillance for illegal fishing operations...

* * *

Andrew Darby has comment from Hideki Moronuki of the JFA:
A Japanese Fisheries Agency official, Hideki Moronuki, said he could not understand why New Zealand had decided to film the fleet or release the footage.

"It makes no sense," he said.

Especially so, since the footage is so bland and tame...

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IWC Normalization meeting news

I've seen over the past few days that Australia and the USA are amongst a group of 26 nations that were invited by Japan to attend the IWC Normalization meeting in February, but have decided not to attend.

Elaine Lies at Reuters has the story:
Boycott may loom over Japan meeting on whaling
25 Jan 2007 12:15:36 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Japan has called a special meeting of members of an international whaling group next month to help lift a global moratorium on hunting of whales, but several countries opposed to the practice may boycott the assembly.

The absence of anti-whaling nations from the meeting of members of the International Whaling Commission could leave the future of the world body in doubt.

Japan, which with other pro-whaling nations has long argued that the fractious IWC is no longer functional, offered last year to host a first-ever gathering to "normalise" the group.

The meeting, to be held from Feb. 13 to 15 in Tokyo, was officially announced on Thursday, just a day before international environmental group Greenpeace will set sail from New Zealand to again confront Japanese ships in the Southern Ocean which are carrying out what it calls scientific whaling.

Invitations were issued to all 72 IWC members, but so far only a handful of anti-whaling nations have said they will attend, Fisheries Agency official Hideki Moronuki said.

Some 26 anti-whaling nations, including Australia, have agreed to boycott the meeting, an Australian government official was quoted by the Fairfax newspapers in Australia as saying. Australian officials were not available for comment.

"It's really a shame if that occurs, and would make it very hard to see how the IWC proceeds from here on," Moronuki said.

"We're saying that we want to normalise, but if that article is true our opponents have chosen confrontation over conversation, and the meaning of the IWC is lost," he added.

The IWC presides over the fate of the Earth's largest creatures, which were almost driven to extinction before the whaling ban in 1986.

But the group is bitterly divided between countries that think whales still need to be protected, such as Australia, Britain and New Zealand, and countries that think some species are sufficiently abundant to be hunted again.

Japan, which leads the pro-whaling bloc and has gathered powerful support from African, Pacific and Caribbean nations, has killed thousands of whales since 1986 under a scientific whaling programme. Iceland and Norway ignore the moratorium and conduct commercial whaling.

Activists took a dim view of the renewed push for whaling.

"I think that there are things about the IWC that need to be changed, that need to be brought into the 21st century, but commercialisation is not one of them," said Bunny McDiarmid, executive director of Greenpeace New Zealand.

Some Japanese politicians have said leaving the IWC cannot be ruled out at some point in the future if nothing changes.
I'm both surprised and disappointed that 26 out of the 72 member nations of the IWC would refuse to attend this meeting. I could imagine that the hard-core anti-whalers of New Zealand, Australia and the UK might, but even the USA?

It makes a mockery of international agreements between sovereign nations when 26 states who have signed the ICRW, which is supposed to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry", will only support a type of conservation that has no place for any level of consumptive utilisation of those stocks, despite scientific advice that this is today possible.

Whale conservation is not some silly children's game, or a political trophy that needs not be taken seriously. This "all or nothing" approach by these 26 nations is shameful. Will it only be after Japan and other whaling nations have decided to dessert a hapless IWC before these nations realise their foolishness?

Some anti-whaling nations that may attend the Tokyo meeting apparently include Sweden and Switzerland. I lost the (possibly unreliable) source of that information however. Switzerland is one anti-whaling nation that did not originally vote for the commercial whaling moratorium (it abstained, "because it believed the proposal did not fulfil the Convention requirement of being based on scientific findings"). Sweden is a neighbour of the Norwegians.



More on Iceland's fin whale meat

We got an update earlier in the month on the status of the new commercial whaling operation being run in Iceland by Kristjan Loftsson.

As one might expect, Greenpeace have gone off and put their propaganda machine to work:

* * * * *

Greenpeace swings and misses

Endangered Whales – Hunted, Stockpiled and Left to Rot on a Rubbish Dump
Nice headline guys... but really?
The Icelandic government's claims of sustainable whaling were harpooned today, after Greenpeace revealed that around 200 tonnes of meat and blubber from endangered fin whales are still in storage, waiting to be tested for chemical contamination and a further 179 tonnes of bones and entrails have been dumped in a landfill site. This information has come to light after an investigation by Greenpeace campaigners in Icelanc.
1) What's wrong with a commercial operator confirming the safety of it's product for human consumption? I'd like to know the product were safe before I buy some (and if I can get my hands on some once it arrives in Tokyo you know I will!)

2) Bones aren't exactly edible, last time I heard. In fact, people tend to use them for other purposes, like carving. Nor is the market for "entrails" on fire. How many westerners out there enjoy cow intestines on a regular basis?

(As it happens, with some whale species, such as the Antarctic minke, pretty much the entire whale can be consumed, but in many species found in the northern hemisphere, contaminant levels in the internals of the animal are above recommended consumption limits.)
The Icelandic whale meat and blubber are intended for export to Japan, despite whaler´s claims that some of the generated product is not fit for human consumption.
Who wants a bet that this statement is a typical Greenpeace misinterpretation of what was actually said?
The Japanese whaling fleet is currently preparing to hunt 10 more fin whales and 935 minke whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, despite having massive stockpiles of more than 4400 tonnes of unsold whale meat in freezers in Japan.
"Massive" stockpiles? There was more than 1,300,000 tonnes of frozen marine product in stockpiles in Japan at the end of November 2006. On what scale is the 4,400 tonnes of whale meat that was in stock at that point in time "massive"?

* * * * *

Icelanders respond

Environment protection organization Greenpeace claims that the meat of the whales that were hunted in Iceland last autumn cannot be sold in Japan and is consequently piling up.

According to Fréttabladid, Greenpeace spokesman Frode Pleym said there is a very limited market for whale meat in Japan and that it is used for school kitchens and dog food, leaving no reason to continue whaling.

“These supplies don’t scare me. Weren’t they talking about 4,700 tons? That is comparable to every Japanese eating 37 grams of whale a year. Or if one-fifth of the nation would eat whale once a year, this would be enough for one 200-gram steak for each person,” Kristján Loftsson, the director of whaling company Hvalur hf. told Morgunbladid.

He added: “These are almost no supplies at all, if they are right that is. These guys [Greenpeace] are hardly ever right. It is not favorable for business to have no supplies […]. Samples from the meat are being investigated to see if it contains heavy metal such as quick silver and PCB. It is complicated and takes a long time.”

Jón Gunnarsson, the director of Sjávarnytjar ehf., told Fréttabladid: “We have investigated the whale meat market in Japan very carefully and this product is sold there for a high price. […] Nothing indicates that we won’t be able to sell the whale meat.”

The Greenpeace figures of 4,400 tonnes at the end of November 2006 are correct (I corrected them myself), but where they are wrong is in trying to make out that this amount of meat constitutes a "massive" stock, as I illustrate above with some context.

Loftsson is dead right to point out that it is not good business to be out of stock. When your consumers want something, you need to be able to supply it - and the bulk of the whale meat in the Japanese market arrives in March/April and again during the summer months. For the rest of the year, supply is very limited. It has to be stocked to ensure availability for consumers during those times.

I also concur with Mr. Gunnarsson. From a demand perspective, there is going to be no problem selling the meat, it's just a matter of the paperwork. I'm not sure what that entails, but I assume that DNA samples from the whale meat to allow market monitoring will probably be required by officials for market monitoring purposes.

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JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #13

There is little in the way of interesting news coming out of the Australian and New Zealand media. The story is only barely getting coverage in New Zealand, and while there are more reports coming out of Australia, a lot of them seem to originate from a single reporter (Andrew Darby - he comes up with some useful info from time to time).

So this update is just a brief round-up

1) Sea Shepherd left Australia around the 9th of January, and were reported to be ready to start "hunting" the whalers a week later (see Update #8). It's the 25th of January today and they haven't yet found them.

2) On the 15th, Ian Campbell unleashed a volley of rhetoric, saying "I will not grant permission to Japanese whaling vessels or support vessels to use Australian ports ... They are banned from Australian ports as long as I'm the Minister."

No big deal. The ICR vessels don't stop over in Australia on their way back to Japan, anyway.

3) Sea Shepherd responded again to Ian Campbell's previously coddling of the Greenpeace activists:
The water cannons are easily avoided. We have never been hit with them for the simple reason that we have not placed ourselves in the path of them. Greenpeace activists deliberately place themselves in the path of the water cannons for dramatic effect. ... We are not the victims down here and Greenpeace should not be trying to make themselves the victims. ... We are not interested in stories of people whining about how violent the Japanese are to people. If someone gets knocked into the water by a water cannon then that is the reason they came down here. Besides that is what survival suits are for.

4) Still, on the 19th, New Zealand "Conservation Minister" Chris Carter, issued a "yeah, and us too", in this press release:
"Japan's whaling fleet is not welcome in New Zealand ports".

Speaking at a reception onboard the Greenpeace vessel – Esperanza in Auckland today, the Minister also urged all parties involved in this year's whaling protests to exercise restraint.

Before entering a New Zealand port any ship carrying whale products would need to apply, under the provisions of the Marine Mammals Protection Act, for a permit from the Minister of Conservation.

Chris Carter said he would not grant such a permit and reiterated the New Zealand Government's strong opposition to Japan's whaling programme in the Southern Ocean.
So no big deal there. In the same press release he also expressed concern about Greenpeace activists getting squirted with water cannons. Does Carter get all his ideas from Campbell or something?

On Sea Shepherd:
"I am very concerned by recent statements made by Captain Watson and the battle modifications made to his ships."
Carter shares his own master plan:
"The best way of solving this issue would be for Japan to abandon whaling and join other nations in respecting and conserving marine species that could be facing extinction ".
Astute and constructive stuff there from the man in charge in New Zealand...

5) On the 23rd, Ian Campbell was dumped as Environment Minister by John Howard, to be replaced by a chap named Malcolm Turnbull. This article describes Campbell as "colourless", his replacement as a "razor-quick lawyer and businessman".

I reluctantly have to say farewell to Ian Campbell - I will miss his huffing, puffing and excited bluster, as it has provided good humour value, but on a more serious level, my impression has always been that Campbell doesn't seem to have much common sense. Perhaps I have this impression because Campbell has had to try to defend Australia's hypocritical policies regarding resource management issues, so maybe I am being a little bit rough.

Bad luck, mate.

6) Oh yeah, Greenpeace. After hanging out in Auckland for 2 weeks, apparently they are leaving tomorrow, after the ICR fleet has been whaling for almost 7 weeks already.

TVNZ has a 5 minute video clip from "Close Up", giving Greenpeace the media attention that they crave. If you don't live in New Zealand and want to see a good example of typically biased coverage of the issue, I can recommend it. Greenpeace Japan's Junichi Sato also makes an appearance, basically regurgitating standard Greenpeace propaganda.

I've had a bit to say about the partiality of TVNZ previously...

Greenpeace's whalelove webpage has also now got it's content underway. I've not viewed it yet - and am still wondering whether I should bother :-)

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US Navy permitted to continue sonar use

In contrast to a generally quiet start to the New Year from Australian and New Zealand news sources in relation to Antarctic whaling activities, the US media is full of news regarding the decision on the US Navy's use of sonar (mentioned here previously)
The Defense Department has exempted the Navy and its use of sonar from the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act for two years — causing an outcry from a national environmental group that maintains the underwater sound harms whales.
(Full story here)

The US government's criticisms of commercial and scientific whaling by other nations seem incredibly hollow when they turn around and make decisions like this regarding their own activities.

Why is it OK to indiscriminately kill whales with sonar, but not OK to selectively kill whales with harpoons?

Presumably the US IWC comissioner will be able to explain this to the world during May's IWC meeting in Alaska.

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Another western gray whale entanglement death

Bad news today, another western gray whale has apparently died in a fixed fishing net off the coast of Iwate, north eastern Honshu.

Here's my translation of an January 20th article from Iwate Nippo on the subject (I think some of the information in this article is wrong, but I'll get to that later):
Gray whale caught in fixed net - Yoshihama bay, Ofunato

On the 19th, it was reported that a gray whale, a species with a high risk of extinction, became entangled in a fixed fishing net in Yoshihama bay, Sanriku, Ofunato city, and had been landed at Kamaishi city's Kamaishi Fish Market.

The whale was a female calf, of approximately 9.1 metres in length, and estimated to weigh around 7 tonnes. It had already died by the time it was discovered, and was dissected after samples were taken by the Institute of Cetacean Research (Tokyo city). The remains will be destroyed at a Kamaishi incineration plant sometime after the 20th.

According to the Fisheries Agency, fishermen discovered the gray whale entangled in a set net on the morning of the 18th, in the northern end of Yoshihama bay, in Sanriku, Ofunato city. It was pulled to Kamaishi Fish Market, where they inquired to the Fisheries Agency, at which point it was identified as a gray whale. The carcass was dissected on the morning of the 19th after researchers from the institute had completed their investigations.

According to the Fisheries Agency, there are around 100 gray whales in the coastal waters of Asia. A ministerial ordinance was revised in 2001 which, only in the case of entanglement in fixed fishing nets, made possible the sale of proceeds of whale carcasses upon submission of a written report and other procedures. However, a representative of the Fisheries Agency Far Seas Division said "The gray whale is an endangered species, and in consideration of international criticism, we have ruled that the proceeds not be sold".

There were also notifications in 2005 of a grey whale being found in Tokyo bay, and two more off the coast of Onagawa, Miyagi. These three whales also died.

An expert in whale ecology, Mr. Yamada of the No. 1 Animal laboratory at the National Science Museum, analysed the event. "It seems that the whale became entangled in the fixed fishing net while migrating to it's breeding grounds in Mexico. This species travels close to the coastline, so there is the chance of entanglement in fixed fishing nets."

According to the prefecture's fisheries promotion division, there are no prior occurrences of gray whales being entangled in Iwate prefecture. Each year, around 10 minke whales, for which it is permitted to market the proceeds only in the case of entanglement in fixed nets, are landed. In 2006 14 whales were marketed.

[Photo: The head of the gray whale landed at Kamaishi Fish Market, at 10:00 on Jan 19 (courtesy of the Fisheries Agency)]
An earlier article at Nikkan Sports notes that the Institute of Cetacean Research confirmed that the whale was a gray whale, with a representative quoted as saying "it is rare to find gray whales in the seas off Touhoku" (for those unfamiliar with Japanese geography, Touhoku is the north eastern part of the main island of Honshu).

As for the theory of Mr. Yamada at the National Science Museum, I think he's got it wrong. As far as I know the gray whale that breeds in Mexican waters is the fully recovered eastern gray whale, as opposed to the western gray whale that the FAJ representatives are quoted as identifying the specimen as.

This is now the 4th occurrence of a gray whale dying in 2 years, which will again see the issue raised at this year's IWC Scientific Committee meeting. There is coverage of the entanglements on page 12~13 of Annex F of the 2006 IWC/SC report.

An interesting point is that the entanglement and subsequent death of the two whales that died off the coast of Miyagi (immediately south of Iwate) in 2005 occurred in July, at a very different time of year, yet a very similar location.

Regarding the ministerial ordinance of 2001, readers who are literate in Japanese can find materials related to this here, but to briefly summarize a pertinent point, the law makes possible the sale of whales entangled in fixed nets, but whales protected under the marine resource conservation law are not allowed to be sold, even in the case of by-catch in fixed fishing nets. Material on the Internet suggests that officially species falling into this special protection category are
However I also have heard from a Japanese NGO spokesperson that the whaling section of the Fisheries Agency's Far Seas Division said that the western gray whale will also be placed on the list. As far as I can tell, this still doesn't seem to have happened as of yet.

Ironically, reports at the time of the 2001 revision note that it was necessary to explicitly exclude the Blue whale and Bowhead whale from the sale of by-catch provisions, although there were in fact no records of Blue whale or Bowhead whale entanglement having ever occurred. Unfortunately, it has been the gray whale that has suddenly had a spurt of entanglements in a short space of time.

While the officials did the appropriate thing by directing that the carcass of this latest entangled gray whale be incinerated (as it would be were it on the protected list), I hope to see the species explicitly listed sooner rather than later. This may help to raise awareness of the problem this species is facing.

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Right whale update

Another brief article outlines the bad year for the Northern Right whale.

Whaling methods have been criticised in terms of whale welfare, but this little bit helps put things into perspective:
A whale that becomes snagged in fishing gear could live for six months but slowly loses body weight, dies and sinks out-of-sight ...
Not a nice way to go at all. Not to mention the issue of conserving this population. Just preventing it from going extinct seems like a major challenge, let alone helping it to recover to a higher level.

However, unlike some, I don't like to ignore the good news - indeed I'm happy to see it repeated again and again. Here's something for us all to smile about:
The Southern right whale is thriving, however, and a model of how the animals could survive with less shipping and a reduced fishing industry

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Ishinomaki children get introduced to whale meat

Here's another news item in relation to whale meat in Ishinomaki (I have details of a previous item from earlier in January here):
First whale meat lunches in 25 years 2007.01.24
Ishinomaki region day care centres
City hopes to see culture passed on

On the 23rd, Ishinomaki city provided whale meat lunches in 30 child care centres throughout the Ishinomaki region. According to officials, similar lunches are provided in Oshika once a month, but this was the first time in 25 years for whale meat lunches to be provided in Ishinomaki.

The meat used was from minke whales caught in Antarctic ocean research whaling. The menu was "whale meat shigure-ae" - seasoned diced whale meat, coated with potato starch then fried, dressed with shoyu flavoured sauce, and sprinkled with white sesame seeds. To ensure the meat is tender and odorless, seasoning with miso and ginger was used.

At Minato child care centre, 50 children from ages 1 to 5 ate the whale meat lunch for the first time. Ishinomaki Mayor, Kimio Doi dined together with 26 children of ages 4 to 5. "Whale meat is good for your body, so make it a favourite", he urged them, and children
with smiling faces responded saying "it's soft and tasty", as they maneuvered their chopsticks. Some children were back for seconds.

The aim of the provision of whale meat in child care centre is to see the whale food culture of Ishinomaki, once a whaling post, carried on by the regions' children. The city plans to provide 3 further whale meat lunches in child care centres during the next fiscal year.
This sort of thing enrages western environmental groups, but the question for them is simply, "Why should communities choose to give up what they see as their local traditions?" The western environmental groups are obviously yet to come up with any convincing reasons. They can't even convince me, let alone the people to whom it really matters.

The Ishinomaki region is home to the old whaling post of Ayukawa, one of four small coastal whaling communities around Japan that requested a relief quota of 150 North Pacific minke whales for a three year period at the IWC 2006 meeting, without success.

According to official stockpile statistics, Ishinomaki had the largest frozen whale meat stockpile as of the end of January 2006, but by the end of November 2006, stocks had fallen to around 500 tonnes, in fourth place, behind Tokyo, Hakodate and Kushiro.

Mayor Doi of Ishinomaki, who features in the article, appears to be a strong supporter of whaling if a google search (sorry, in Japanese) is anything to go by.

UPDATE: Mayor Doi features in this article in the aftermath of the IWC 2006 meeting, which has some interesting comments from a whaler from Ayukawa (I'll translate it sometime later maybe).

UPDATE 2007/01/24: There is more coverage (in Japanese at Kahoku Shinpo) of the story about whale meat for kids in Ishinomaki (more translation from me below):
"Whale meat is tasty isn't it" / Provision at child care centers in Ishinomaki

Miyagi prefecture's Ishinomaki city is to revive the use of whale meat in school lunches from fiscal 2007 in 13 of the the city's public child care centers, as a part of efforts to see whale food culture continued and propagated. It is the first time in 25 years for whale meat to be used in school lunches at municipal child care centers, and plans will see it provided 3 times a year. Prior to the full launch, whale meat appeared in the lunches on the 23rd, and found popularity amongst the kindergarteners.

At Ishinomaki City's municipal Minato child care center, the kindergarteners munched through the fried "whale meat shigure-ae", flavoured with miso, soy sauce, ginger and garlic, leading to a chorus of "tasty". Many of the children ate whale meat for the first time, but some went back for seconds, and others noted with pleasure that they'd like to eat it again.

The city children's household section says "we plan to try various recipes, and also expand use of whale meat into municipal child care centers in other areas".

In the city's primary school lunches, whale meat menus are provided once a month, including in the child care center of the once prosperous whaling region of Oshika. Since fiscal 2006, provisions have been increased from 2 times a year to 4 times a year, and provision has expanded into all areas of the city.
- 2007/01/23 (Tuesday)
Well, those kids sure look to be enjoying themselves :)

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More whale meat offerings for Kyushu tourists

Here's an article (original Japanese here) regarding plans from Hirado, Nagasaki, to introduce various whale items to menus in the region's tourist facilities.
Hotels, ryokans (Japanese style inns and eating and drinking establishments in Hirado city are to simultaneously start offering whale cuisine on new speciality product menus. A final taste testing event was held at the city's northern community centre on the 18th.

Whale food culture permeated through the Hirado region, where whaling history extended from the Edo era (1603 ~ 1867) to early Showa (1925 ~ 1989). The Hirado and Matsuura regions tourism human resource development council, made up of local government and commerce and industry associations from Hirado and Matsuura was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to work towards the creation of the new speciality food menus.

Around 30 people from local women's groups and tourism operators were invited to the taste testing event, where the Hirado industry cooperative prepared four dishes, and the Hirado food and drink industry produced ten. In addition to standards such as sashimi, items including shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, chilli sauce, bacon pizza and salads made up the elaborate new menu.

Takada Kumiko (56), a Hirado city tourist guide from Iwanoue town was full of expectation, saying "This was my first time to eat it, but it is surprisingly delicious. My image of whale has changed. Many middle aged and older people have a desire to eat whale meat, so I can confidently recommend this to them. I hope it becomes a Hirado speciality".

Once the cooperatives have reviewed the results of questionnaires from the test tasting event, they will decide on respective items to be included in the unified menu. They will start promoting the menus to tourists from next month.
More coverage of this story can be found in Japanese here.
UPDATE 2007/01/23
: And here is my (as always, just best-effort) translation of this article...
Brandifying modern whale cuisine - Hirado's whaling history for tourism - Sales from mid-February

On the 18th, Hirado city's restaurant business unveiled modern dishes using whale meat, as they set to bring "whale cuisine" to the market as a new brand for the region, leveraging the region's Edo era history as a prosperous whaling post. In Hirado city, the Hirado Tourism Association is conducting an experiment to test the concept of "dinner / lodging separation", where by tourists are lodged over night in hotels and ryokans, but enjoy local speciality food for dinner in the town. The association aims to appeal to tourists and reinvigorate the region through the development of the unique menus.

This was the second such event since November last year, being conducted as a part of a joint project between Hirado city and the Matsuura region to develop tourism human resources.

"Tasty", was the word on the lips of most participants. The same cooperative apparently has plans to offer various whale cuisine in conjunction with the "Hirado hot springs / castle town doll festival", in which hina dolls will be displayed in 130 locations throughout the urban area.

Whaling was well underway in the waters of Genkainada based out of Ikitsuki Island (a part of modern day Hirado city) by the early stages of the 18th century. By the 19th century, the "Masutomi group" had expanded their fishing grounds into Iki and Goto, making the group the largest kujira-gumi in Japan. Later, yields reduced and traditional whaling waned.

Building on this historical background, the thought is that the creation of "whale cuisine" peculiar to the region, following on from the "Hirado Flounder" that was introduced in January 1997 as a regional brand, will become a new tourist attraction, and boost sluggish tourist numbers in the region.

Restaurant operator Miyakuni Kazuhiko (30), a resident of Kouyamachi, Hirado city, who entered a pie offering to the event, said "we got rid of the smell of whale meat, and softened it by marinating it overnight in salad oil, olive oil, and ginger and laurier. I really hope people will taste this healthy sensation".
Interesting stuff. I suppose western environmental groups might suggest that Hirado residents look to boost tourism through whale watching instead of whale cuisine, but the people who decide the way forward will be the people who are actually stakeholders, and they will do so in accordance with their own cultural values.

* * *

Hirado, a small island off the north west coast of mainland Kyushu, is not completely unknown to the western world. Several years ago the western media picked up a story about plans to "farm" minke whales in the region. I've not heard anything more about the plan since. I'm not sure how genuine the story was.

This site, which looks to be operated out of Hirado, is dealing in whale meat products mainly sourced from the research programmes.

* * *

Remember the story last month about whale meat being introduced at Yobuko lodge in Karatsu city, Saga prefecture (next to Nagasaki)? You can see some pictures of the whale meal on offer here, at QKamura Service's homepage. Looks pretty good to me.

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Greenpeace propaganda contradictions and factual errors

Just watching Greenpeace's "Ocean Defenders TV" (see "Return to the Southern Ocean"), I couldn't help but scratch my head and wonder. Here are some of the things they are saying:

Karli Thomas:
"The 1000 whales that will be killed this year in the Southern Ocean are just the tip of the iceberg. What we're concerned about is that this may lead to a return to commercial whaling"
Karli Thomas:

"What the Fisheries Agency of Japan is doing is not scientific, it's merely commercial whaling in disguise"
Sorry Karli, what? Are you saying the FAJ is already whaling commercially, or are you saying what they are doing may eventually be followed up by a return to commercial whaling? Why say one thing and then turn around the next minute and say something contradictory?

Besides, we already have commercial whaling - in Norway (for yonks) and Iceland (since last year). Is it really such a surprise that the world has not exploded yet? Even in Japan whaling occurs with respect to species that Japan believes are outside the IWC's jurisdiction.

As it happens, I agree with Karli (with her first story, that is). When Japan does resume commercial whaling with respect to species under the IWC's jurisdiction, it is indeed likely to result in significantly higher numbers of whales being killed than at the present time under scientific permit (as you would expect where a research programme is concerned).

I struggle to understand how Karli can recognise this much, but then still believe that the current research programmes, which are still small in scope compared to commercial whaling immediately prior to the moratorium, are "commercial whaling in disguise".

As an aside, Karli seems to already have accepted the fact that the ICR will kill "1000 whales" in the Antarctic this season. Given that they already concede that the ICR will take their quota, I again find myself wondering whether they will persist with their video-friendly tactic of trying to put inflatables between the harpoon gunner and the whales (with potentially negative implications for the welfare of the whales selected for sampling).

"[Research whaling] is now entirely dependent on Japanese government funding"

This is incorrect, the publicly owned ICR organization is heavily dependent on proceeds from the sale of the whale meat by-products.

"Back in Japan, hardly any one seems interested in the Southern Ocean whale meat. By the end of 2006, nearly 5,000 tonnes piled up in cold storage."

This is incorrect, the stockpile level fell to 4,403 tonnes at the end of November 2006, and the figures for the end of 2006 have not even been released yet.

I could say more, but I've addressed other aspects of their pathetic misinformation before.



JARPA II 2006/2007 Update #12 - Kagoshima to welcome fleet home

Minami-nihon (Southern Japan) Broadcasting has a story about plans in Kagoshima (a city at the southern coast of Kyushu) to welcome home the JARPA fleet. The following is my translation:
Research whaling fleet welcome plans established [01/18 17:08]

The research fleet currently conducting research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean will visit the port of Kagoshima for the first time this April, and a committee to hold a welcome event was launched today.

The two vessels that are scheduled to visit Kagoshima port for the first time are the "Nisshin Maru (8030 tonnes) and the "Yushin Maru No. 2 (747 tonnes)", which left the port of Shimonoseki last November and are currently conducting whale research in the Antarctic Ocean. In the current research programme, 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales will be caught, and in mid-April the ships are scheduled to dock in Kagoshima, where a portion of the catch will be landed. Today the prefecture and city, along with related parties such as the chamber of commerce launched a committee, and discussions were held regarding an event to welcome the visit of the research vessels. The "Whale festival in Kagoshima" event will be held on the two days of April 21st and 22nd, with the research ships opened to the general public at Kagoshima City's waterfront park. 4000 portions of "kujira shiru" (whale soup) is set to be provided to the public free of charge.
The Nisshin Maru is the "research mother ship", while the Yushin Maru No. 2 is one of the sighting/sampling vessels (SSVs).

Kagoshima doesn't feature in the regional section of the official frozen stock figures for whale meat currently, but based on this report it seems we can expect to see Kagoshima appear when the figures for April are released later this year.

UPDATE 2007/01/19:
More articles appeared on this story in the Japanese media today. My translation from this article from 373 news:
Every year on it's return from the Antarctic Ocean, the research fleet is opened to the general public in several locations around the country to promote understanding of whaling. This occasion will be the 14th. In Kagoshima, the research mother ship "Nisshin Maru" and sighting/sampling vessel "Yushin Maru No. 2" will be on display, and at the "Whale festival in Kagoshima" event, 4,000 portions of kujira-shiru will be distributed free of charge, with shochu (Japanese spirits) using ice from the Antarctic also prepared for taste testing.

At the meeting of the event committee, the chair, Kagoshima city major Hiroyuki Mori greeted attendees, saying "I hope to make this an event that pleases city and prefectural citizens".

In April the fleet will return to Japan at Taniyama port, Kagoshima, where 1,500 tonnes of whale products will be unloaded and shipped across the country.

Kazuo Yamamura (59), president of Tokyo based Kyodo Senpaku, which is responsible for the operation of the research whaling vessels said "I hope the people take the chance to get to know the crew who will guide them around the vessels".
I think the bulk of the by-products will possibly be held in storage in Kagoshima until they are sold off in July.

Last year, judging by the regional stockpile figures, the meat was landed in the Tokyo area in addition to Kanazawa. This year the Tokyo stock levels appear to be being maintained at close to 1,000 tonnes, while the Kanazawa stockpile volume has dropped from 2,500 tonnes at the end of April to approx 500 tonnes at the end of November.

The e-kujira whale portal site has images from a similar festival held in Kagoshima last year (as well as images from other venues around the country, if you check the links at the bottom of the page).

Another page regarding the 2006 event in Kanazawa is here (lots of pictures if you are able to navigate your way through it)

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