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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



Humpback whale caught in fixed net

In late March, the Yomiuri Newspaper online edition had a story back from central Japan about a rare occurrence - a humpback whale entanglement in a fixed net. Here's the photo from the article and my translation below:

Whale caught in fixed net! Landed in Mie - fetches 3.6 million yen at auction

Early on the morning of the 23rd, a fishing boat belonging to the Miyama fishery cooperative discovered a Humpback whale (9.65 metres in length, weighing 9.8 tonnes) caught in a fixed net in the Kumanonada area about 2 kilometres from the coast of Mie prefecture's Kihoku town. The whale was brought to the town's Hikimoto port, and sold at auction. A dealer from Wakayama prefecture bought the whale for 3.6 million yen.

According to the Mie prefecture Agriculture and Fisheries commerce and industry department, with the exception of some rare species, it is possible to dispose of whales caught in fixed nets via the market, and Association Chief Satoshi commented that "the whale appeared likely to die, so we landed it after discussions with the Japanese Whaling Association".

The rare event at one point saw more than 100 people gather at the port to see the sight (=photo=). Local resident Toyoko Nakamura (71) was one of those surprised at the event. "I've been living in this town for almost 50 years, but this is the first time I've ever seen a whale landed here".

Yotsuo Asano of the Toba Aquarium said "In winter, whales breed in the ocean to the south, and head north from December to May. During the migration they sometimes get stuck in nets."

(2007 / 3 / 24 - Yomiuri Shinbun)

The ICR maintains a "stranding record" of cetaceans that strand, wash ashore, or are otherwise caught in fixed nets and so forth. This is important information to have from a conservation and resource management perspective, as information on human induced whale mortality is needed for efficient implementation of the IWC's Revised Management Procedure.

I don't have a summary of these figures, but from previous glances at this record, when large whales are caught in fixed nets they tend (95% of the time) to be minke whales. There are other occurrences of humpbacks, but not many.

Incidently, the price of 3.6 million yen for the whale seems like a pretty good deal. Optimistically there might be 5 tonnes of meat on the whale, which would mean selling on at a price of 720 yen per kilogram just to nearly break even. Regular wholesale prices are just under 2000 yen.

* * *

This Japanese site has some pictures of different types of fixed nets.

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