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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



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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I've been of the opinion for some time now that the IWC circus has outlived its usefulness.
Maybe in light of Tony Blair's latest attempt at grabbing free "green" votes via the animal protest industry other nations will feel the same way and take steps to set up a NAMMCO style hunters club.
It certainly is a circus, and there looks like there aren't enough "anti-whaling" nations willing to compromise to save the organization - it seems at least 26 of them are happy to have the baby thrown out with the bath water.

The only possible benefit of the IWC is that it's scientific committee is well established, but ultimately it's worthless if it's advice is ignored all the time by the IWC circus. Even within the IWC SC political divisions have now developed, so I imagine many scientists would be reluctant to join a break away management group. I only see this as a problem if the integrity of the scientists who want to put the good of long term conservation forward are prepared to provide advice to any new management body is seriously in question (unlikely so long as a cross of scientists from whaling and non-whaling nations alike join). If the whalers leave the IWC, then I think they can leave behind the scientists who's expertise is in relation to non-core issues, such as whale watching. Just thoughts as they pop into my head though, I could re-think all of this at some point...
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