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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



Quick round-up

There seems to have been a fair bit of whaling news over the past week. Just a few things:

- The JARPA fleet returned, and the Japan Coast Guard is apparently investigating both the damage from Sea Shepherd's actions and the cause of the fire accident that took a man's life and cut the expedition short (the body of the deceased man had arrived in Kagoshima some days ago now - I have a Japanese article on this to translate sometime). Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, expedition leader of the ICR is reported to believe that the cause of the fire was probably due to an electrical fault, but investigations aren't complete yet.

- The IWC Scientific Committee JARPA Review meeting report was uploaded to the IWC homepage late last week. Almost immediately afterwards Greenpeace issued a (predictably misleading) news release, selectively quoting and muddling information from the report. Suffice it to say, if you read the report for yourself (or even just section 8 carefully) you get a substantially different impression. The media appears to have been largely apathetic anyway - reports like this obviously don't sell news so well anymore. I'll have more of my views on the JARPA review report on another occasion.

- A Tanzanian official visiting Japan reportedly expressed to his counterparts that his nation can support Japan's position on the whaling issue, and they are looking to join the IWC in time for this year's IWC meeting. I'll look to translate more on this later as well.

- An article in a Japanese newspaper reported (available here at the JWA site) that the All Japan Seamen's Union applied to the Foreign Minister to have the Greepeace ship, the Esperanza, barred from entry, citing the Arctic Sunrise's collision with the Nisshin Maru from the 2005/2006 expedition, and the way in which union member's lives were put at risk. Ultimately it seems that the Esperanza has been refused entry after the company that was lined up to handle their entry was approached by the union. A sanctimonious Greenpeace have been whinging about this, and trying to give the impression that they are being punished for Sea Shepherd's eco-terrorism in February. As much as Greenpeace's PR spinsters like to proclaim that their organization is so morally pure, the fact is that they have frequently exceeded the bounds of what can reasonably be considered "peaceful", "non-violent" protest over the last decade.

Greenpeace was also criticised earlier this year in relation to a separate incident by New Zealand Energy Minister, David Carter. He said "This stunt is a real disappointment. Not only is it unnecessary but it potentially puts lives at risk... I am surprised Greenpeace has not shown better judgment... this illegal stunt is a step too far."

* * *

I'm busy with some wedding related preparations this weekend, so more (sometime) later.



Whale on sale near my new place

Lately, I've been busy with my relocation to our new apartment. I'm still living in the same neighbourhood in Tokyo (only the last few characters of my address changed with the move), but my daily commute (via a different station) is slightly less time now in door-to-door terms, while I spend more of the time walking (exercise is always good), but the train line that I use now is hell-crowded in the mornings.

The apartment is still in rough shape since I only finished the move on Sunday afternoon - lots of boxes to be unpacked, a book shelf (slightly broken during the move) to fix etc. But it's a nice place - the best fitted out place in terms of facilities that I have rented since being here (good grief - already my fourth apartment). Most rental places within my budget have no real functionality built into them - they are just rooms with electricity and gas terminals for use with portable gear, but this new place has a proper kitchen unit built in - the stove has three gas elements, a fish grill beneath that, and a microwave / oven beneath that as well (vegemite and cheese toasted on English muffins each morning so far this week).

Anyway, I've only been here since Sunday, yet I've already found myself bumping into whale meat on two occasions already.

My local supermarket stocks a product loudly emblazoned with English characters - "WHALE BACON" (680 yen for 40 grams, apparently made from minke and bryde's whale). It is advertised as an "appetizer" (otsumami ni!). I think I saw a similar - if not the same - product on sale when I visited the Tsukiji fish market early one summer morning back in 2003 when I first moved to Tokyo.

But a more interesting one - this evening I ventured into an izakaya with a shitamachi (old town) atmosphere along the main avenue between the station and our new apartment. Surprise, they had a couple of whale dishes on the menu. I actually only wanted to have a vegetable salad or something, but one of the whale dishes was a mere 300 yen, so I ordered that as well.

The lady taking my order asked, "Are you sure? It's a very small dish, only about so big", cupping her hands together to show me. 300 yen is no big deal so I confirmed that I would have it.

The name of the dish was genkai-zuke (玄海漬), or literally "pickled genkai". This dish is not actually a whale meat dish - it's a pickled whale cartilage dish. It was pretty tasty, although you'd never guess it was whale that you were eating. It seems that the cartilage is largely ground up into a fine powder before being served.

Genkai-zuke is apparently a speciality of Saga, in the southern-most main island of Kyushuu, and has been around since the mid part of Japan's Meiji era (as noted at this Japanese page - that's about 100 years ago). It appears that a company (Genkai-zuke KK) continues to preserve this unique piece of Japan's food culture today, even under the tight conditions of the unnecessary commercial whaling moratorium. Here's Genkai-zuke KK's webpage.

If you are thinking you've heard of "Genkai" before, maybe you have - Genkai, refers to the "Genkainada", an area of sea in western Japan. It also got a mention in a Japanese article related to Hirado's whaling traditions that I translated here previously. This "pickled genkai" dish would seem to have taken it's name from there.

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Croc culling

Reuters has an article about calls in Australia for crocodile culling. The article is apparently in response to a plan released by the local environment ministry.
"It's a classic example of lateral thinking," Queensland politician Bob Katter said on Thursday in ridiculing the plan.

"Instead of removing the crocs, they're going to remove human beings"

"I think that there should be a bounty paid on crocodiles for a period of time and in selected areas and I think that there should be proper armaments provided to people to be able to do that cull," Katter told local radio recently.

From the other side of the debate:
Queensland Environment Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr rejected fears that crocodile numbers had exploded.

"It's more likely that more people are visiting or moving into croc habitat, and so more people are noticing crocs," she said this week in releasing the conservation plan.

"Saltwater crocodiles are a vulnerable species with only about 30,000 believed to be left in the wild in Queensland."

"In developing this plan, the Environmental Protection Agency aimed to get the balance right between public safety, sustainable commercial use of saltwater crocodiles and protecting these ancient, vulnerable animals in the wild," she said.

The Minister uses the phrase "only about (number) believed to be left in the wild". Such talk can only serve to mislead where species that are perfectly capable of reproduction and increasing in number are concerned.

Crocodile expert Graeme Webb has a paper at the IUCN's sustainable use specialist group website on conservation through sustainable use.



Hananomai revisited

Last year in September I translated a Yomiuri article about the small yet increasing presence of whale meat in the Japanese marketplace.

Featured in the article was a Chimney Group izakaya chain, Hananomai (meaning Flower Dance"). Back in November 2005, Hananomai apparently upgraded a selection of whale dishes to it's regular menu - with the tatsuta-age (fried whale) option subsequently becoming one of Hananomai's top 10 earners.

Where are they at today?

Courtesy of Japan's "Gourmet Navi" restaurant locator site, I pulled up the Ginza branch's website.

At the top of their list of recommended menu dishes is (no need for a drum roll):

Further down the menu, in their "kujira / kani" (whale and crab) section, three further whale dishes are introduced:

Further whale meat offerings are also available as part of Hananomai's spring banquet menus, including a pizza topped with kujira and mentaiko (pollack ovum), and a "kujira bacon harihari salad", which sounds like it may consist of similar ingredients to the "harihari nabe" that I covered in a previous blog post. The banquet sets range from 2,500 yen to 4,500 yen a head.

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Whaling related news from Hokkaido

One of Japan's coastal whaling communities lies on the remote northeast coast of Japan's northern most main island of Hokkaido, in the town of Abashiri. Not far, on the opposite southern east coast of the island is the town of Kushiro (which we often see in the whale meat stockpile statistics).

Some news articles appeared out of these towns in the Japanese news media recently. My translations below, first from Abashiri (Japanese) then from Kushiro:
"Whale cutlets" popular - appearance in Abashiri school lunches (2007/03/06 13:35)

[Abashiri] At the whaling base of Abashiri, fried whale has appeared as "whale cutlets" in the town's school lunches from March, in an effort to convey the "whale food culture" to elementary and junior high school children. It will be provided in all of the town's elementary and junior high schools by the 15th.

Last year, the "Abashiri whale council" of the town's whaling dealers and the town's administration, provided approximately 200 kilograms of minke whale meat from whales taken in the Antarctic whaling research to the town's education board at low cost. This time, the local whaling dealer "Shimomichi Suisan" is frying the meat and preparing it at each school.

On the first day, Yoshiichi Shimomichi, the head of Shimomichi Suisan visited Abashiri south elementary, and spoke to the children. "Whales were protected to conserve them, but now whales are increasing, and the fish which they feed on are decreasing. We need to conserve whale food culture, not just protect whales", he said.

Without much delay, the children had their cheeks full with whale cutlets, saying it was "tasty" with a apparent satisfaction. Elementary year 2 student Kana Hatakeyama looked pleased, saying "I was looking forward to it. It's soft and tasty. Maybe I like it more than normal cutlets". (Mika Kobayashi)
Shimomichi Suisan has a small spot on the web here. Shimomichi-san is also apparently one of a small group of coastal whalers still operating under tight conditions. There is a picture of Shimomichi-san at the e-kujira portal tucking into a whale meat dish. He is also quoted in a 2005 Hokkaido Yomiuri article (Japanese) as vowing to continue his efforts to pass on the whale food culture to children. In an even older article (Japanese) he calls for the setting of a minke quota. He also had a paper published in "The 11th International Abashiri Symposium: Development and Northern Peoples".

A busy and driven man.

From Kushiro:
Using industry assets for tourism - Kushiro subprefecture to hold forum on the 6th (2007/03/01 14:14)

A "Kushiro industry assets forum" will be held at the Kushiro Life-long Learning Center on the 6th from 1:30pm. The purpose is to consider the possibility of using Kushiro's industry assets as new tourism resources. There are plans to utilise valuable historical industrial assets such as the coal quarries, railroads, and the remains of whaling bases which supported Hokkaido's modernization and regional economy.

At the forum, representatives will give presentations on 18 "Kushiro industry assets" selected by the subprefecture. The keynote speech will be from Hideki Arai, chief of lodging sales at Kushiro Prince Hotel, which in 2006 produced a tour package incorporating visits to the former site of a whaling base with whale dishes ...

It's unfair that these people of remote parts of Hokkaido continue to have their activities limited to reminiscing about the past for reasons that are hardly relevant in the 21st century.

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Saturday at Bunbuku

One minute's walk from Tokyo's Shimokitazawa station (a youth mecca several minutes train ride out of Shinjuku and Shibuya), is an izakaya called "Bunbuku". It's one of the favourite izakaya of some of my friends who live in the vicinity - they introduced it to me towards the end of 2005.

Around this time last year I noticed that they had a minced whale offering (kujira tataki - yukke fuu) on their daily menu (photo courtesy of Google images). Naturally I tried it out, and found it to be pretty good, although slightly expensive compared to other dishes on offer. I seem to remember having it on at least 2 occasions.

Some months later when I was there again, the minced whale was gone, but a "whale bacon" offering had appeared on the daily menu. Again it goes without saying that I tried it out as well, and found that my impression of whale blubber had improved quite a bit since I first tried whale blubber at a Sushi restaurant in Akasaka (Photo again from Google images).

I was out with my friends again last night and we decided to head to Bunbuku first, having not been there for a while. The daily menu gave me a surprise - not one, but two whale dishes on offer:

Three from the top - minku kujira sashi for 1,000 yen, and a few further rows down, the kujira bacon item that I've had before at 500 yen.

I had minke whale sashimi at another restaurant I often frequent the other day, so passed on the sashimi this time, but had the whale bacon again to get some omega-3 fatty acids.

Even without the whale meat offerings, Bunbuku is a good first stop for a night out in Shimokitazawa.

Here's Bunbuku's site at Gurunavi for all of those of you in Tokyo. It looks like they are part of this chain with restaurants in other parts of Tokyo as well.

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John Howard in Japan to ask for free trade

Aussie Prime Minister John Howard (you may remember him from his forays into the whaling debate in the past) is currently in Japan for free trade talks.

John Howard recognises that
"... even without the free trade agreement Japan is our best customer"
Australia exports lots and lots of their unneeded surplus beef to Japan each year, in addition to "critically endangered" species that Australia sees fit to exploit commercially for the benefit of it's people (*1).

As is natural, Howard is hoping for more:
"... it will be beneficial if we can get greater access for our exports and of course we have to give something in return."
I'd like to see the Japanese negotiators get a signed declaration from Howard that representatives of his country will refrain from emotive language (*2) in relation to the whaling issue. This should not be so much to ask. After all, even without such a declaration I'm sure John Howard would expect representatives of his nation to conduct themselves with grace and dignity at all times anyway. Alternatively, Howard should acknowledge that such language is pure populism primarily aimed at fringe domestic constituents, and that Australia doesn't mean to cause any offence. I think the Japanese would accept such an admission with gratitude.

Howard has previously admitted that Japan's whaling activities are legal.

The main reason why Australia is against whaling today is because it no longer makes money out of it, and a certain noisy but politically important sector of Australian society is opposed to it.

Were Japan to make Australian tolerance of sustainable whaling a condition for the free trade agreement, Australia would once again have a financial incentive to act in accordance with the object and purpose of the ICRW. The sector within Australia that does not want humans anywhere to catch whales, be it sustainable or not, would of course be unhappy. However, average Joe Aussie who stands to benefit financially from further improved economic ties with Japan may finally see fit to set that noisy bunch straight. Fingers crossed, but unfortunately expecting such an outcome has but maybe a 5% chance...

* * *

(*1) On page 39 of this Hansard pdf former Environment Minister Ian Campbell refused to cease Australia's participation in the southern bluefin tuna fishery, noting that it would be "catastrophic for ... Australian fishermen and their families", and regarding the suggestion that Australia move to list the species (classified by the IUCN as "critically endangered") on to Appendix I of CITES, responded negatively, saying "... quite often internationally we are not able as a community of nations to get ideal results. Does that mean you should just pull up Australia's stumps and walk away?"

Given this position and Australia's position on the whaling issue, Australia's priority list appear to be as follows:
  1. Australian profits
  2. "Conservation"
  3. True conservation???
  4. Non-Australians???
A better list would look like this:
  1. True conservation / sustainable use / Humans
But it's not to be...

(*2) For example, current Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull's recent description of whaling as "barbaric", and former Environment Minister Ian Campbell's ill-selected adjectives of "sick" and "obscene". Back in Australia, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has been accused of "dirty attacks", but that's to be expected in the domestic arena. In the international arena representatives of sovereign nations would be well advised to be more careful with their language.

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Update from Hirado

Remember the story from Hirado back in January about plans to re-establish whale meat cuisine?

Here's an update on this story in another Japanese article from the 15th of February:
The nostalgic new flavor - whale cuisine revived in Hirado

(Photo caption: The "Kujira-zukushi set meal" sashimi that will be available from the 15th)

Hotels and restaurants in Hirado will start providing whale cuisine as the "nostalgic new flavor" from the 15th. They have created a combined menu using the food culture of the region, and will sell the food as the a regional food speciality product.

Hirado prospered in the Edo era due to whaling, centered in Ikitsuki island. Aiming to create speciality products related to that history and culture, menu development was conducted on commission from the
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Combined recipes were created after a series of taste testing events.

As for the unified menu, a Hirado association of eating and drinking places is offering sashimi-mori (800 yen), kujira-zukushi set meal (1,350 yen), chanpon (900 yen), and salad mori (800 yen). The Hirado hospitality association's menu includes miso yaki, miso nabe, shabu-shabu, and sashimi mori (prices yet to be set). Development is to continue, and the number of menu items further increased.

Besides the unified menu, each eating and drinking place is offering additional creative dishes, including innovative chirashi / nigiri-zushi, sukiyaki set meal, shuumai, and chili sauce. The Hirado association of eating and drinking places is promoting the menu items, saying "It's healthy food which brings back old memories. We've set prices cheaply. We hope people will visit Hirado and try out the kujira-zukushi set meat, which includes 3 or 4 whale dishes."

It'd be interesting to know if they have some kind of preferential deal in order to be able to guarantee a supply of whale meat is available.

Some related links:
1) A publication from Hirado city featuring whale meat cuisine
2) 平戸料飲業組合 (the Hirado association of eating and drinking places, not sure of the English name - probably isn't one)

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Whale meat stockpile update for January 2007 figures

It's that time of month again! Today, Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries published the January 2007 figures for the volume of marine products in cold storage (in Japanese PDF format, M$ Excel format). The whale meat stockpile graphs I've been maintaining are updated below for these latest figures.

Quickly recapping from last month's update for December 2006 figures:
... but on with the show - here is the first month of figures and graphs for 2007.

January 2007 outgoing stock: 1,001 tonnes

The 1,001 tonnes of outgoing stock in January 2007 continues the strong consumption trend that has been prevalent over the winter months.

The figure is:

January 2007 incoming stock: 462 tonnes

Pretty big for January - 209% higher than in the same month last year. I'm not sure what the story is here.

January 2007 overall stockpile movement: Down 539 tonnes to 3,365

This figure represents
Here's some more context for this figure:
A press release last year from the ICR stated that:
... supply to the market is kept under tight control and drip fed to ensure that whale meat is available in selected areas throughout the entire year.

"Demand always exceeds supply. At any given time, there will be an amount of whale meat in storage to ensure supply is always available..."
The official figures appear to reconcile with these statements.

Graph: Annual volumes
This graph is just the same as last month but now with the first month of figures for 2007 added.

The fatal fire accident on the Nisshin Maru which ultimately saw the JARPA II programme called off in February prior to completion is likely to result in a reduction in overall supply in 2007. This will almost certainly see the 2007 outgoing stock figures come in below the figures for 2006 as well, as outgoing stock is obviously capped by whatever volume of supply is available.

Kristjan Loftsson's commercial whaling operation is possibly going to export a few hundred tonnes of whale meat product to the Japanese market later this year, but the volume they have available is very small at this stage, and not likely to make a significant impact this year.

Graph: Monthly stockpile movements
Note that while the peak stockpile size has increased, the steeper slope of the stockpile line for the 2006 months illustrates the increasing rate of consumption. The stockpile looks set to bottom out at just below 3,000 tonnes in 2007, as it has done in recent years.

Graph: 12-month moving averages:
The information that Junko Sakuma didn't want you to see - the increasing consumption trend in recent years remains evident, with the big increase in supply since the return of JARPA II last year now almost completely cancelled out.

With no supply increase expected in 2007, the increasing trends illustrated here are likely to level out over the next couple of months, and probably decrease slightly given the likelihood of lower supply in 2007 than in 2006.

Graph: Cumulative volume:
This graphs shows a similar thing as the previous graph. The gap between supply and consumption over the last 12 months was just a fraction of the outgoing stock volume figure for January 2007, and smaller than the amount of meat supplied in typical off-season month.

When we see the February figures next month they are likely to indicate that consumption from March 2006 to February 2007 exceeded supply over the same 12 month period.

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles:
The biggest drops in stock levels last month occurred in Kanazawa, Hakodate and Kushiro. The top 7 locations shown here for January 2007 account for around 84% of all whale meat in stock. You can't see it very well in this graph, but Nagasaki (with 77 tonnes) replaced Shimonoseki at the bottom of January's top 7.

Kagoshima had been slated as the 2007 port of return for the Nisshin Maru, but due to the fire disaster is now apparently returning to Tokyo for inspections and repairs instead. Some of the whale meat by-products from the shortened season will thus presumably be landed in Tokyo - maybe all of it if the Oriental Bluebird is also headed here.

* * *

An amusingly backwards statement in the Australian media today:

Greenpeace chief executive Steve Shallhorn said the Japanese people were the key to ending whaling, because whale meat consumption was continuing to drop in Japan.

"Japanese people are voting with their forks," Mr Shallhorn told reporters.

Shallhorn's suggestion that whale meat is losing popularity makes for a very easily contradicted null hypothesis.

But what is wackiest is that Shallhorn appears to think that if people have no desire to eat a certain type of food, they will strive to prevent others from eating it as well.

I don't think kind of thinking is particularly prevalent amongst Japanese consumers (and I also think that Japanese food connoisseurs vote with their chopsticks, not their forks).




Malcolm Turnbull: Whaling is "barbaric"

Australia's new Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia is opposed to "the resumption of barbaric commercial whaling by Iceland".

Mr. Turnbull would be well advised to have a kit-kat. This sort of language is unbecoming of a representative of a member of the international community such as Australia.

Such words would also be slightly inflammatory too, if the whaling peoples of the world hadn't already become indifferent to it (it's several years now since former New Zealand Conservation Minister Sandra Lee set a new low standard by describing whaling as "despicable").

Turnbull suggests that Iceland's decision to resume commercial whaling is in breach of the international commercial whaling moratorium. This is for the legal experts to ponder (should they care to), but the simple reality is that there is nothing to stop Iceland from withdrawing from the ICRW once again and permitting it's whalers to carry on, either way.

Mr. Turnbull can describe whaling as "barbaric" as much as he and his domestic constituents like, but this reality isn't going to change. Which leads one to ask, to whom are Mr. Turnbull's comments actually directed?

* * *

The Minister provides an illustration of the confidence of the extreme anti-whaling nations' willingness to oppose whaling on non-scientific grounds:
"Australia is implacably opposed to commercial whaling"
Indeed it is, but this statement contrasts with Australia's position on the "moratorium" decision when it was adopted at the 1982 IWC meeting:
"Australia believed that the [moratorium] proposal was a good solution to the various interests of the whaling industry and the conservation of whales."
Today Australia no longer pretends that it has any concern for the interests of the whaling industry, and it's position clearly has nothing to do with conservation either, as evidenced by Australia's "implacable" opposition to exploitation of even abundant minke whale stocks.

Turnbull explains that:
Australia considers Iceland’s reservation incompatible with the purpose of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling.
Iceland's recent moves appear to be entirely compatible with the purpose of the ICRW, whereas Australia's own "implacable" opposition to commercial whaling is clearly not.

One wonders if dropping the facade of acting in accordance with the spirit and purpose of the ICRW may one day come back to haunt Australia and other such extreme anti-whaling nations.

* * *

On Iceland's decision to unilaterally resume commercial whaling:
"It has done so without any assessment by the International Whaling Commission or its scientific committee," Mr Turnbull said.
The International Whaling Commission is just a political grandstanding forum for those with extremist positions like Mr Turnbull to talk about how "barbaric" they think whalers are. I'm not sure what kind of incentive Mr Turnbull thinks the Icelanders have for raising the issue with the IWC while it remains in such a dysfunctional state.

Furthermore, the tiny numbers of whales that Iceland has permitted it's whalers to catch during the current season will have only a neglible impact on the relevant whale stocks. The scientific committee is planning an RMP implementation for the North Atlantic fin whale, believed to number at least 20,200, and perhaps as many as 33,000. Iceland's quota of 9 fin whales therefore represents just 0.045% of the lower end of the accepted abundance estimate. The rate of natural mortality in the North Atlantic fin whale population is likely around 100 times higher, illustrating just how insignificant the quota is in conservation terms.

Introductory literature on the RMP suggests that initial catch limits would be "less than half a percent of the estimated population size".

Thus, the 0.045% of the estimated population size that the quota of 9 fin whales represents is perhaps more than 10 times smaller than the catch limit that the highly conservative RMP might initially set with respect to the North Atlantic fin whale stock.

* * *

Mr Turnbull has a particular complaint with regards to the fin whales:
"Fin whales are listed under the IUCN (International Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species as endangered, which sadly means they face a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future."
One has to question whether Turnbull is serious in this criticism, given that Australia itself continues to permit it's own people to exploit other species that are also on the Red List, and not just "Endangered" species, but some that are "Critically Endangered". Moreover, to make it even more difficult for the Minister to reconcile his above criticism with his nation's own standards, Australia allows exports of the products of the exploited "Critically Endangered" species to overseas markets.
"Iceland has a modern, prosperous economy with no need to hunt endangered whales."
Presumably Mr. Turnbull thinks Australia does not possess a modern, prosperous economy, and thus can justify it's own exploitation of "Critically Endangered" species on those grounds?

* * *

Here's some self-congratulatory information from the Australian government:
"While Australia's laws concerning wildlife trade are some of the most stringent in the world, they are not intended to obstruct the sustainable activities of legitimate organisations and individuals. Instead they have been designed to demonstrate that, when managed effectively, wildlife trade contributes to and is entirely compatible with the objectives of wildlife conservation."
Contrast this with Turnbull's statements:
“I find it very perplexing that like Australia, Iceland has a burgeoning whale watching industry which provides far greater commercial benefits than killing whales, and allows our people and tourists to learn about the great whales”
No doubt the Icelanders, who have a burgeoning whaling industry which provides complementary commercial benefits to the whale watching industry are perplexed as to why Australia chooses to forgo such opportunities for sustainable development. Especially given that Australia continues to exploit other species regarded by the IUCN as "Critically Endangered" with a seemingly clear conscience.

* * *

I had hoped for an improvement from Mr. Turnbull over his predecessor, Ian Campbell. He hasn't made a promising start.

Mr Turnbull can be contacted here:

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IWC 59 Scientific Committee meeting agenda

The IWC Secretariat have updated their home page with some preliminary details of the Scientific Committee meeting to be held during 7th ~ 18th May in Anchorage, Alaska.

Here is the Draft Meeting Agenda.

Here are Documents available for download (none as of right now - it looks like document submissions are open until March 26).

This link may be useful for spotting the new documents as they are uploaded over the coming weeks.

* * *

Here's a few goodies from the Agenda which I presume a lot of observers will be watching with interest:

6.1. Western North Pacific Bryde's whales [N]
6.1.1. Complete Implementation of western North Pacific Bryde's whales
6.1.2. Recommended action
6.2. North Atlantic fin whales [N]
6.2.1. Plan for start of North Atlantic fin whale Implementation
6.2.2. Recommended action
As I understand it, the completed RMP Implementation of western North Pacific Bryde's whales will enable the IWC Scientific Committee to provide management advice for this particular stock of whales. As the IWC homepage notes, similar work has already been completed for some Northern Hemisphere common minke whale stocks, and once the wNP Bryde's whale work is complete they'll start the work for the North Atlantic fin whales. Iceland resumed commercial whaling last year, with this stock of fin whales being targeted in addition to common minkes.

However, while this work may put the Scientific Committee in a position to provide management advice, the IWC itself is still polarized and unlikely to alter it's current management decision of "no whaling".


10.1. Southern Hemisphere minke whales (IA) [N]
10.1.1. Estimate abundance of Antarctic minke whales
10.1.2. Reveal reasons for differences between Antarctic minke abundance estimates from CPII and CPIII
10.1.3. Catch-at-age analyses of the Antarctic minke whales
The SC is expected to finally be able to agree on an Antarctic minke whale abundance estimate based on the third circumpolar set of surveys. More than the estimate itself, the reasons for the differences and discussion of the catch-at-age analyses will be more interesting here. It goes without saying that this part of the SC report is likely to be extremely selectively quoted by certain groups trying to push certain angles in the media.


17.1. Review of results from JARPA [N]
17.1.1. Review report from the intersessional JARPA Review Workshop
17.1.2. Overview of JARPA results in the context of IWC resolutions and discussions
The review of the original JARPA programme is also certain to be a headline grabber one way or another. Given the divided views amongst the wider Scientific Committee on lethal research methods (and indeed in the wider political arena as well) there is going to be repetition of the same old stories that we have been hearing for years, but the report from the review meeting itself should make for enjoyable reading.

At the IWC plenary political talk-fest I think the sustainable use nations should stress that in the context of the convention, which is meant inter alia to provide for the optimum utilization of whale resources, the research can only be viewed in a favourable light (unless the review found that JARPA was terrible, which seems unlikely given the largely favourable report from the previous review meeting in 1997, amongst other factors).

A challenge ought be laid down to the Australians to make data from their non-lethal research programmes available through the IWC SC Data Availability protocol. As of the current time there still appears to be no data available from the Australians, where as there is data available from JARPA, and indeed foreign scientists have been using it in catch-at-age analyses mentioned in section 10.1.3 of the draft agenda. My guess is that the Australians have the following problems:
(1) They have no data
(2) They don't want to be seen to have no data (their non-lethal methods can't produce to the same degree as the methods employed in the JARPA programme)
(3) Even if they did have data, they wouldn't want to provide it because it may be used for management purposes (i.e., contributing towards the setting of catch limits for Antarctic whale stocks).

You never know though, one day they may just prove me wrong.




IWC members to 73 - Cyprus confirmed

The number of IWC member nations has moved to 73 now, with Cyprus on the 26th of February joining other recent additions, Croatia and Slovenia.

These three new European members are all unlikely to vote against the wishes of the anti-whaling NGOs on any matter, and while one or two sustainable use members might join the IWC prior to the plenary in May, votes appear to no longer be particularly relevant to the future of the IWC.

* * *

This year's meeting will be very interesting:
Last year, the US commissioner made the following comments:
"What the United States wants to do is try to find a way to protect whales but at the same time recognize some harvest," he said, proposing a negotiated quota for hunting of whales no longer endangered in exchange for closing the "scientific whaling" loophole in the commercial ban. If Japan wants to hunt whales in the name of culture or science, those killings would come off its quota, he said.
He made similar comments to the BBC.

It's a somewhat different story this year (in relation to "subsistence" hunts)
"What we've said is absolutely no deals here. We're not going to make a deal with you. We're not going to be blackmailed. We're not going to be held hostage".


"Japan just thinks if they can get the U.S. over the barrel, then we'll come to their rescue, they can hold us hostage. And it's not going to happen."
Tough talk.

The IWC Normalization meeting called for the IWC to recognize Japan's small scale coastal whaling operations.



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