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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



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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