Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics
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.
Labels: JARPA, Junko Sakuma, whale meat market