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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



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.


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