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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 Future again

Here are some statements from Japanese officials in recent times:

Last year:
"These whole [IWC] meetings are a waste of time"

-- Joji Morishita
That's a pretty frank comment, but completely on the money. After a quarter of a century of endless shenanigans, it's now more than clear that a significant number of nations have no intention of ever acting in accordance with the ordinary meaning, or object and purpose of the ICRW, upon which the IWC is supposed to be based. The situation means that the IWC can not function as it was intended.

Further comments from Earlier this year -
This one in response to the "boycott" of the Tokyo Normalization meeting by the hard-core anti-whaling nations:
"It's really a shame if that occurs, and would make it very hard to see how the IWC proceeds from here on ... We're saying that we want to normalise, but if [the boycott] is true our opponents have chosen confrontation over conversation, and the meaning of the IWC is lost"

-- Hideki Moronuki
Following on from that:
"I think this is a final attempt on our side to save this organisation..."

"If this fails we need to think about other measures very seriously..."

"I cannot see any point to continue or to go back to the same structure or the same mindset as before the normalisation meeting..."

"Whatever is decided by the Anchorage meeting will probably trigger the next step"

"Something will happen this summer"

-- Joji Morishita

Bad faith

With many nations completely open in their intention of never accepting any form of commercial whaling ever again, irrespective of the scientific advice that the IWC Scientific Committee is capable of providing through the Revised Management Procedure and all the other issues used as a justification for their position, it's clear that the ICRW has not been adhered to in good faith.

This parting of views is not the result of a genuinely held difference of interpretation of the ICRW. Everyone knows exactly what the ICRW means, and exactly what it was intended for. Yet nations that do not support it's content remain signatory to it, and actively seek to recruit other mutineer governments to support their obstructive actions.

This has long been evident - consider this from the records of British parliament (*) in 1991:
It is clear that the Japanese, the Norwegians and the Icelanders are members of the International Whaling Commission so as to achieve an agreed international rule for resumed whaling of the minke and the fin whale stock. We are not fools. We know that that is the purpose. In a sense, that is what the constitution of the organisation says, so that is a legitimate expectation on their part.

Over the years Japan's newspapers have tended to produce what I would suggest are naive editorials, suggesting that remaining at the IWC negotiation table is in Japan's interest (see the Nikkei last year as one example). Maybe this is so, but only if something at the IWC changes. Anti-whaling NGO driven media coverage in the lead up to the meeting this year suggests that nothing will.

If we judge by the western media, it appears that the anti-whaling nations appear to have forgotten that they need to keep some carrots on the table, or the whaling nations may simply walk away and establish a new international body. Some have suggested that Japan is not unhappy with the current situation, with whaling still continuing under scientific permit. My impression is quite different. There are many in Japan appealing to the Government to set coastal whaling catch limits.

If Japan does walk away from the IWC (one would assume with the backing of a group of other nations) relations between Japan and the anti-whaling nations are still generally very good. Setting a small commercial catch quota would be met by yet another diplomatic outburst, but if the initial scale of a hunt is limited, and strictly regulated, there should only be limited side-effects.

If my memory serves me correctly, neither Iceland or Norway have ever had official trade sanctions leveled against them, making a potential trade war with the world's second largest economy of Japan even more unlikely to be seriously considered (especially just over the whaling issue). The world's most vociferous anti-whaling nations, Australia and New Zealand are heavily trade dependant on Japan, and stand to lose more than Japan in such a battle. Furthermore, Australia is currently trying to negotiate a free trade agreement with Japan. Meanwhile, the USA is currently trying to convince Japan to loosen it's restrictions on US beef imports (**).

In the west, there will always be a sector of society sympathetic to the fundraising campaigns of the anti-whaling groups. These groups will never fall silent, but they may be counterbalanced, if incentives are created.

Japan should have faith that the policy of allowing for utilization of abundant resources on a sustainable and regulated basis, while protecting depleted resources, is one that will find tolerance amongst the silent and unaffected, who I suspect are in the majority. This is particularly likely to be the case if it is in the western North Pacific where Japan starts to re-introduce commercial whaling. The JARPN II fleet, including a repaired Nisshin Maru left Japan weeks ago - it has hardly been mentioned in the western media or by the protest groups.

* * *

* This whole episode is interesting reading, if you feel like warping back 16 years in time - start on this page from "commercial whaling"

** I have wondered whether the Japanese government couldn't look to create political incentives for policy change in the west by linking whaling with issues such as these, where groups and individuals within nations like Australia stand to gain, balancing the fringe anti-whaling segment.

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