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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



Japanese media reports IUCN Humpback whale extinction risk downgrade

Y/H-san drew my attention to a Japanese article that appeared in the Yomiuri newspaper in relation to the IUCN Red List and the revised whale species classifications that are due to be published in the updated list (sometime) later this year. The High North Alliance was first on the net with this news, much earlier this year. But here's my translation of the Japanese article from the 27th of April:
Humpback and Minke, removed from "Endangered" list - New impetus for whaling resumption

It has been learnt that the IUCN, after confirming increases in the number of Humpback and Minke whales which had been threatened with extinction, has moved to down list these two species to a lower rank of extinction risk.

The downgrade is expected to be published shortly in the "Red List", which classifies animal species by different levels of extinction risk. Coming on the eve of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Anchorage USA, the controversy surrounding the resumption of commercial whaling for these two species is likely to be heightened.

According to the Red List, the Humpback was "Endangered (Threatened)", and the Minke whale species, while not meeting the criteria of a Threatened species, had been classified in the "Near Threatened" category, requiring caution, due to a notable decreasing trend in their numbers.

The IUCN, in progressing their re-evaluation of the rankings for the world's mammal species, held a meeting of specialists in January this year, and confirmed that they would downgrade the Humpback and Minke whale species to "Least Concern", a ranking indicating a low risk of extinction, based on scientific data such as that provided by the research whaling conducted by Japan.

The research whaling is currently conducted with respect to Minke whales, and from this autumn will commence for Humpback whales. This downgrade will potentially provide the nations who are aiming for a resumption in commercial whaling
, such as Japan, with a powerful reinforcement. Yoshio Kaneko of Iwate Prefectural University's Faculty of Policy Studies commented that "This is the result of an objective judgement of the status of whale abundance. With respect to these two species, anti-whaling advocates will lose any grounds they had to say that these whales are facing extinction".

(2007/4/27/ 3:10 Yomiuri Shinbun)
In real terms, the recovery of the humpback whale after more than 40 years of protection (i.e. since the 1960's - two decades before the unnecessary commercial whaling moratorium was rammed into effect) is great news.

But this report being published is also great news as well. Today many publications seem to prefer scandal and drama over gradually unravelling success stories, but the IUCN Red List downgrade of the humpback provides a nice conservation milestone for the media to pick up and run with...

... well, the Japanese media at least. You see, meanwhile, the "environmental editor" of a major British newspaper has today published an article referring to "50 endangered humpbacks".

I predict that this sort of reporting (either ignorant or intellectually dishonest) will continue even after the official Red List publication.

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水産庁資源管理部 森下丈二漁業交渉官






Hi David. I wish I'd found your blog a long time ago. It's great. I just wanted to tell you that I picked up on you via JapanProbe this morning, and I reproduced your translation of this Yomiuri article on my blog here. It's a great follow-up to my original take on whaling in Japan. Thanks.
Hi David - According to the IUCN Redlist at this moment in time, the Humpback whale is STILL listed as "VU A1ad" - i.e., Vulnerable.

A1ad refers to:
"A) Population reduction in the form of either of the following:
1) An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction of at least 20% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, based on (and specifying) any of the following:
a) direct observation
d) actual or potential levels of exploitation

Don't get too excited yet...

If one reads the article carefully, one will see that this news isn't about the existing Red List which is based on the humpback assessment from 11 years ago in 1996, but the assessment done in January 2007, and the 2007 Red List that is due to be published shortly.

The downgrade of the humpback from the Red List is exciting, and it should be celebrated by all who care about whale conservation.

Some people seem frightened by the news.
The 2007 IUCN Red List has not given any reassessment of the Humpback Whale. The Humpback Whale is still listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
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