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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



IWC Normalization meeting result

The JFA has a press release (Japanese) regarding the result of the IWC Normalization meeting that was held in Tokyo last week.

Apparently only 3 of the so-called "anti-whaling" nations turned up - Switzerland, South Africa, and Oman.

The main recommendations appear to be:

1) Steps to build mutual trust and procedural problems

Amongst the suggestions here is that inappropriate and emotional statements be prohibited. I should think that this should not be to much to ask of an international commission of states who have all signed the same convention.

2) Increasing awareness of various positions

The suggestion here is that to ensure fair representation of information, links to each nations' position be presented on the IWC Secretariat's website. Also, it calls for greater coverage of the findings of the Scientific Committee in relation to whale stock assessments and research results in the IWC Secretariat's press releases.

3) Cultural diversity. The meeting recommended that the IWC adopt a resolution regarding cultural diversity and the contribution of regional societies to resource management. As a part of this the meeting suggested that the IWC recognise Japan's small scale coastal whaling operations.

4) Interpretation of the ICRW. There was a recommendation that a special group be established to look into the consistency of amendments to the ICRW's Schedule with the Convention itself. Additionally, where signatory nations can not reach agreement over such issues, 3rd party legal opinion should be sought.

At the meeting, the Swiss representative apparently suggested that the extremist "no whaling" position was not helpful, and that there was a need to compromise.

After IWC 58, Bill Hogarth of the USA (and new IWC Chair) also suggested that compromise was necessary. I forget exactly how he described it, but it seemed to me at the time that he was basically suggestion that the IWC take up Japan's position but dress it up differently. For example, instead of abolishing the moratorium, maintain it but make exceptions for limited whaling.

The two camps are poles apart however. The pro-sustainable use camp wants the ICRW interpreted to the word (optimum utilization of whale resources), where as even moderate nations like Switzerland who recognise that "no whaling" is not a feasible option still seem to want to have less whaling than is currently the case.

The level of whaling should not be determined by the politicians. It is up to the Scientific Committee to advise on safe catch limits, which they will do via the revised management procedure mechanism.

I think odds are on that the IWC will collapse either this year or the next.


As you point out David we are in 2007 with many changes socially and ecologically since the inception of the IWC and we know much more than we did then.

The point is that there is no other international body that "manages" cetaceans large or small, therefore it would be intresting if Japan would recognise this in an effort for comprimise on both sides. Neither has behaved itself any better than the other when you research this huge issue. Of course this would seem unlikely as I am sure that the Government of Japan would rather keep quiet about the porpoise hunts that still are conducted in town such as Taiji and Futo. There would seem to be strong evidence that the meat is not to healthy, but then you are unlikely to accept the word from an NGO. That is your perogative.

Secret ballots are already in place at the IWC, selection of Chair and vice chair, together with the location of the next meeting, both in my mind resonable. What is unreasonable is that any other votes be made so however controversial they may be.....this is inline with transparency and good governance. The excuse that countries will be threatened by boycotts etc is lame, if you are going to make a decision then you should stand by it, if of course you have reservations about the result then abstain. That is responsible, the truth will set all free and in my experience if I have made a bad decision, I have to deal with the result.

The manner that Japan (particulerly) stubbornly holds it's stance on the issue is one that does demand respect whether one agrees or not. Likewise Irans case for nuclear technology, both controversial issue relating to soveriegnty. Wonder how you feel on that issue, with your stance on whaling I expect you would support Iran.

However as this issue is much wider than just Whales one must also watch what is happening in other related international forums and from my observations this is one corner of a resource war, the resource being marine orgainisms. This is why we see the Government of Japan being very prudent in making alliances with cash strapped countries to get them to export said products to Japan, while those same countries import fish etc to meet their own needs while the local stocks collapse and the fishers of those countries spend more effort for less catch. But as you do not live in any of those countries you can only observe from afar, and trust me what is real on the ground is very different from what you see on websites.

It is intresting the you forsee the collapse of the IWC, which will be brought about by Japan as that will ensure their power and all the pro-whaling countries will gain a top dog attitude.

The practises that I see here in Antigua do not fill me with faith that the fishery departments are collecting enough catch data to give accurate management figures. This is bourne out further with a regional fisheries work shop, so it is not my crazy idea alone as you may think.

As to public opinion, having spoken with a number of stataticians about the survey conductsed by WWF last year both here in the Caribbean and the Pacific that found that there was a real lack of support for this alliance with Japan. The point is that those surveys met the criteria that is internatioanally accepted to provide an over veiw of public opinion. the same as governments use to base decisions on. Though of course no government in your camp will accept it as it was commissioned and released by an NGO.

What is intresting I believ is that you and others dis the NGO's that are anti-whaling and suggest their supporters are misguided. David goverments do the same and we get taxed by them and nobody bats an eyelid. NGO's are generally funded by the public because they do not see government as always acting in their intrests, that is one reason why NGO's exist.

Having said all that I must give the crew of the Nisshin Maru credit for getting things going and I hope nothing else untoward happens in their voyage ( I say as such in regards to respect for their trade as seamen). I still maintain however that there would appear to be some luck and serious risks taken that overall in my mind in those conditions to be somewhat negligent. Anyway I am sure you as relieved as anyone else that the potential disater has not occured, it would have been an unmitigated disaster that even you and Glenn Inwood would be hard pressed to defend. Precutionary principle !!

So, another chapter turns in the Whaling issue.
Hi Martin, thanks for your comment.

Regarding compromise at the IWC, what is imperative is this:

The anti-whaling nations must compromise on their stubborn "no whaling" philosophy. The "no whaling" philosophy is contrary to the spirit of the ICRW that every IWC member is signatory to.

The IWC is likely going to collapse because there is (currently) no political incentive in the anti-whaling nations to make such a change, and self-interested groups such as Greenpeace provide politicians with a strong incentive to maintain policy status quo. An agreement which is not adhered to in good faith is not an agreement worth adhering to.

The secret ballot approach is one method of freeing nations from the deathgrip of these unelected NGO groups. If the people of nations have a problem with whaling, they should be demanding that their governments withdraw from the ICRW. Were the IWC actually functioning in accordance with it's mandate, I agree that there would be no need for secret ballots. There would simply be no vindictive attacks on sovereign nations based on the way they vote, as their membership in the IWC itself should make their position clear.

Do you see any reason for the "pro-whaling" nations to compromise on the basic principle of sustainable use? This question is not in terms of operational matters, but simple policy.
Working this backwards. Yes I do see that pro whaling nations should compromise on the "sustainable use", the reason being that it is a goal not an actuallity at present and nobody is suggesting it as such, it is instead being touted as a current practice. And clearly in the wider context of fisheries (as the Japanese culture veiws whaling) it is not being practised, if it was the FAO and other bodies would not be raising the alarm in this regard as the are.

While I fundamentally do not disagree with the aim, until the infrastructure is in place to do so then a very precautionarey approach should be made. That is one of my strong points that you seem to fail to acknowledge. I live in one of the nations whose vote was negotiated. Even the previous Prime Minister Lester Bird conceded that saying it was "quid pro quo" situation.

Further to that Antigua and Barbuda joined the IWC due to Greenpeace's initiation, then some years later we are in the hold of Japan on this issue, it was a $$$ not a matter of principle. As a member we supported the moratorium, now in the pay of different masters we vote the way they want! Curious, some may call it whoring, I call it insincere and greedy.

Intresting that you completely ignore the small Cetacean issue I raised, surely you have an opinion on it ! I strongly believe if Japan was to put this forward then the tone of the "anti's" would change somewhat. At least put it on the table, of course it is unlikely as that would acknowledge the issue, thereby giving weight to those who have campaigned against it. so it would appear that the government of Japan is happy to poison its own people, completely aside from the sustainable issue related to this point.

While indeed NGO's are not elected formally, they are by default there representing the peoples veiw, yet you give it no weight. Intrestingly boycotts are regarded as ineffective so there should be no fear in it.

The principle of "sustainable dvelopment" is BS, curerently here in Antigua we have a massive number of end of use (in Japan ) vehicles causing serious congestion with 100,000km vehicles. So it could be fair to suggest that we are a dumping ground for Japans auto industry. In my opinion our government should drop the import duty ( around 100%). Why you may ask, we have no way of disposing of them appropriately. It is not dismillar to a WTO dispute between Brazil and the EU over retreaded tires. Brazil makes them and they are a nightmare to dispose of, so Brazil says no we do not want your rubbish we make our own tires that have a longer service life. My support is for Brazil.

As to the good faith in agreements, you are not wrong, however as whales are a common resource we will find ourselves in a sticky situation as long as Japan feels that it has the right to "harvest whales" irrespective of other nations stance. The fact that they usually do what they want in this regard is equally "imperialistic" as the "anti's".

It is intresting to see the "Paid advertisements" that appear in our local newspapers promoting the "sustainable use" concept, what is questionable is that there is no address or organization that puts its name to such "advertisements". Surely if the position is so watertight one would accept responsability and have contact details in such material, but there is not ---that is propaganda which is part of imperialistic behaviour. I do not se the same coming from the "pro-conservation" nations.

I wonder if you have researched the countries that support Japan, many are emerging from pasts laced with corruption, bad governance miltary repression, blatent overuse of natural resources, usually to the detriment of the indigenous peoples in the areas of extraction. While this may be off topic of the IWC, I believe it is an important factor as it displays an attitude that goes with the money not the principle.

Your point that the "no use" nations should leave the IWC if it is to function as mandated, while valid the same could be said of nations that do not have a history or current practice of utilizing such natural resources.

It is worth noting that of the Caribbean nations only one should be involved in the IWC, that being St.Vincent and the Grenadines, as they have hunted Humpbacks for some time and are indeed given a quota under the Aboriginal hunt terms, the fact that more often than not the hunt targets mother calf pairs (an infraction, under the terms of agreements) from my knowledge and as reflected within the IWC. Other nations do hunt small cetaceans such as porpoise and Pilot Whales, yet they feel that small cetaceans should not be on the IWC agenda, go figure that one.

So the pro-sustainable use crowd should get off the same high horse that the "anti-whaling" nations are regularly accused of. It is such a case of "the pot calling the kettle black". Neither side is conducting itself with any grace.

While I respect your opinion and find your blogg usefull it is clear that you only see it from the veiw of Japan and the "pro-whaling" countries. I live in one of the "pro-whaling" countries and would suggest that what I witness is closer to the truth of things than you see on the "net". Come here and talk to the fishermen that see longliners in our waters while our authorities do nothing to intervene, come and talk to them, perhaps then you will see things more clearly.

I was privledged to attend the plenary sessions in St.Kitts last year and can see how different it is from what one reads in the press.

When William Wilbourforce campaigned to abolish slavery it was regarded as on OK practice, today it is aborant, yet continues. And perhaps you should consider that there are some people who feel sufficiently strongly that some things are not acceptable and will give all their efforts to see that practice come to and end. This combined with the seeming fact that humans feel they are not part of nature, the "arrogance of man" and therein lies much of the ecological and environmental tradgedies that face all mankind at the begining of the 21st century.
"The principle of "sustainable dvelopment" is BS, "

If that's so then surely we are all doomed; so the question remains why get your knickers in a twist over some guys munching on a few whales???
David, Iceclass and all,

I got my practises and principles mixed up - the practise of sustainable development (in the main)is BS.

The principle is certainly not BS, my error.

What I get my knockers in a knot about is that the "few guys munching on some whales" is not actually the real problem, it is the politricking that goes around on both sides.

There is definatly a need for soome change with in the IWC and it's behaviour as a body and it would appear even the "Normalization" meeting was really no different in its ideal than say the last ten years of similar proposals at the IWC from Japan and it's allies.

For Japan to make a proposal on pollution threats as a priortity research area and for all cetacean to be included in the IWC mandate would certainly make everyone sit up and think! for all such a proposal would suggest and imply. With a good chance that it would get a resounding majority.

Then there would then be the debate on whether they should be hunted, but at the moment they are anyway, with seeming little regard for public health.

Please not I have at not said that the practise should not occur. Rights come with responsabilities and currently from what I observe and read few countries are practising the responsabilities with integrity, therefore foregoing any right.
This comment has been removed by the author.

That's a monster of a comment man! It would help if you could limit your comments to areas of direct relevance, as I simply can't find the time to respond to all of this in one hit. Or at least number each area, to make it easier for me to follow :)

I'm glad that it seems we can at least agree that the principle of sustainable use is a good one.

Much has been made of the FAO estimate that "75% of the world's fisheries are fully or overexploited". Of course, fully exploiting resources is not actually a bad thing (in fact it's what most fisheries managers aim for), and overexploited fisheries are in many cases producing good yields (although they could be rebuilt to more productive levels). Certainly there are some real disaster cases as well, and the reasons for these must be well understood. I think it's important for each instance to be examined on it's own merits.

Speaking of the precautionary approach, I don't deny the need for such an approach at all. I think the IWC's Revised Management Procedure embodies a precautionary approach - I imagine that you don't disagree.

I think you are unkind to the nations who choose to vote for the principle of sustainable use. A chap named Richard Baron (then of Miami, and active with Greenpeace) represented your nation at the IWC in 1982, in it's first appearance, having just achieved "independence".

25 years down the track, your nation is now represented by it's own people, rather than Americans NGO sympathizers. I think there is good reason to believe that Antigua and Barbuda has far better representation at the IWC today than it did when it's vote was abused to push through the moratorium back in 1982.

You suggest that only St. Vincent need be a member of the IWC, yet recognise other nations which utilize smaller cetaceans. Supporting the principle of sustainable use is equivalent to defending their interests, and naturally so given their geographical features. Further, you do not appear to acknowledge the dynamic of the international community, where nations with cordial relationships naturally support one another in areas (and principles) of common interest, where policy is compatible. This is the exact reason why we see more and more European nations joining the IWC. You read into this "quid pro quo" situation as you please.

I'd very much like to translate some ministry of heath documents from the Japanese government regarding levels of contaminants in various types of whale meat for you, as it would provide the balance which you have probably missed out on through reading about the topic in the English media. Until I find the time for it, this info might be of interest.

Japan feels that it has the right to "harvest whales" irrespective of other nations stance.

If Japan felt that way they would have never joined the IWC in the first place, nor maintained their membership after the unnecessary moratorium was adopted, nor after the adoption (but non-implementation) of the RMP, nor after the adoption of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. 25 years on however, and I don't blame them for their patience having worn thin.

An international agreement has been signed. Each nation has a duty as an international citizen to honour the agreement, either by acting in accordance with it, or by withdrawing adherance from it.

Is there any point in nations signing international agreements if they are as worthless as the ICRW?

Your point that the "no use" nations should leave the IWC if it is to function as mandated

If they can not longer participate in the organization in good faith, they should do the honourable thing and withdraw.

while valid the same could be said of nations that do not have a history or current practice of utilizing such natural resources.

Most of these nations fall into the first category. Those that don't at least have policies that are compatible with the ICRW, and are supporting a principle which they are dependent upon. Suggesting that they not stand up for the principle is suggesting that supporters of the principle make themselves susceptible to the divide and conquer approach being employed by the anti-whaling NGOs. If they have their way with the whales, they will not stop there. That is why they must be defeated, be it at the IWC or outside it's auspices.

the seeming fact that humans feel they are not part of nature

On the contrary, I believe that those who utilise / consume natural resources are much more aware of man's place on this earth than certain people in industrialized western nations who can afford the luxury of more romantic ideals.

Realistically, allowing the IWC to have jurisdiction over small cetaceans etc isn't going to change anything, as whaling nations will continue to be villianzed by the rich "no whaling" NGOs of the west, no matter what they do. These NGO groups are not about sustainable use, they are about non-use.

Please not I have at not said that the practise should not occur.

I'm glad to hear this, but I wonder whether you can convince your friends with the NGOs of this as well.

Rights come with responsabilities and currently from what I observe and read few countries are practising the responsabilities with integrity, therefore foregoing any right.

Ironically, the IWC has an RMP which would produce catch limits largely free of political and industry influence. Denying the rights of nations inspite of this is counterproductive.
"These NGO groups are not about sustainable use, they are about non-use."

Even that is debatable. Most seem more pro-money and building brand name recognition than anything else.
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