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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.

Here is the DEFRA pamphlet, if you can be bothered to read it.

(Indeed the typo of "1990" was due to the sloppy Reuters article, the DEFRA pamphlet does say "1900")
So to get it straight here: You are slamming a publication you haven't even read? Simply because Reuters makes a mistake -which I agree is quite irresponsible- doesn't make the original wrong. Why not have a look at the original factsheet -although I guess you already did- and see if you can criticize that?

"Remain valid? The reasons were hardly valid in the first place."
And somehow it did get a majority approval without Japan leaving the IWC or lodge a complaint.

You point out yourself the flaw in the argument: "seriously depleted are already receiving complete protection". Japan, or any other country for that matter, can leave an international treaty at any time. I guess this is why you say HARDLY valid, right?

I've looked through the DEFRA pamphlet. It's full of over-simplification and Zoroastrianism. Sumed up, it's "join the IWC and help us stop the destruction of the whales by the evil whaling nations".

Unfortunately, the reality is not as simple as the UK and the other anti-whaling nations and NGO like to depict it. If Japan, Norway and Iceland didn't care about the conservation of whales, they would have left the IWC a long time ago and continued their whaling operations.

Again, the pamphlet mentions species such as the blue whale or the humpback whale, but fails to tell about abundant species such as Minke whales.

The argument for the proposition for a moratorium was the uncertainty of informations on whales stocks. However, the Scientific Committee to the IWC didn't back-up this proposition, considering that a blanket moratorium was not necessary as all endangered species were already protected (zero catch limit). Since propositions need to be based on scientific findings (Article V of the ICRW), which was not the case here, the adoption of the 'temporary' ban on whaling was not really valid. (the same can be said about the Southern Ocean Sanctuary of 1994)

Japan, as Norway, the USSR and Peru, did object against the adoption of the moratorium, and was then threatened of economic sanctions by the USA. Japan was then coerced into withdrawing its objection in 1984.

Besides, the circumstances in which the anti-whaling nations succeeded in obtaining a 3/4 majority in 1982 are quite interesting too. The number of member nations in the IWC has been quite stable, between twelve and sixteen, from 1949 to 1978. However, from 1978 to 1982, it suddenly went from sixteen to thirty nine. The majority of the countries which joined the IWC during this four years have never carried out whaling. Some such as Antigua or Saint Lucia, are micro-states that anti-whaling NGOs have "recruited". In fact, Greenpeace paid for the membership and travel fees of these countries, and named sympathizers at the head of their delegations, such as Colombian Francisco Palacio for Saint Lucia or Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin for Panama.

Who started buying votes and threatening in the IWC?
Some odd bits of the DEFRA pamphlet:

"Unless adequate conservation measures are put in place and enforced five more species are likely to be joining the Red List of Threatened Species."

Which five species in particular are they talking about, and are those species currently subjected to hunting? And what "adequate conservation measures" do they suggest? Hopefully not more pointless sanctuaries that add no conservation value... Their heart appears to be in the right place but their words are misleading and unhelpful. Also, word from the HNA is that species are about to be moved off of the Red List, rather than more on.

"Some whale species were on the brink of extinction before the ban came into place"

All species on the "brink of extinction" had been protected by the IWC years before the moratorium was imposed, so what has the ban got to do with anything? As evidenced by the FAO observer's comments the only thing that the moratorium achieved was halting what was probably a sustainable harvest. I'm not sure why conservationists should regard that as a victory.

"so the threat to their survival if the moratorium is lifted cannot be over-emphasised. If the international community allows this to happen, whales will disappear forever."

Are they pitching this material at adults or to children? I have strong doubts as to whether UK government officials really drafted this pamphlet themselves, or whether they simply left it over to an NGO group to author.
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