Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics
There was a flurry of media activity in Japan during and after the IWC 59 meeting.
With the Japanese mass media over excited about the comments made by Akira Nakamae of Japan's Fisheries Agency Japan's representative during the IWC meeting (reported widely here as being the first time Japan had threatened to leave the IWC during the actual meeting) Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki explained the statement
during a June 1st press conference, saying that "as the anti-whaling nations showed no signs of dealing with this issue sincerely, we announced that there is a possibility that we will fundamentally revise our approach to the IWC".
On June 4th, the new Minister of Agriculture Forests and Fisheries, Norihiko Akagi answered questions
in relation to the IWC meeting, with his comments including a statement that "it is rather clear that there is no possibility of the normalization of the IWC, as we have been seeking".
The Minister elaborated that possible options that Japan might consider included withdrawing from the IWC, seeking the establishment of a new international organization in harmony with UNCLOS, and unilaterally resuming commercial whaling within Japan's EEZ. He said that these options would be considered not only amongst the delegation to the IWC, but other domestic stakeholders and other countries that support sustainable use.
On June the 7th, Jiji Tsushin
also reported that a fisheries related meeting within the ruling LDP party was held. The LDP has apparently been in favour of withdrawing from the IWC in the past. The Jiji report noted that while Japan's "firm" stance at the IWC received praised, others also said that developments should be observed and actions taken carefully, warning against brash actions leading to nowhere. The possibility of a Japanese product boycott in the case of Japan withdrawing from the IWC was identified as a possible consideration.
Besides these news reports, various editorials related to the IWC situation were published by newspapers across the country.
On May 24, in the lead up to the main meeting an editorial appeared at Kumanichi.com
, based in the southern island of Kyushu, but offered no real suggestion on how Japan should proceed.
May 25 saw the Nishi Nippon newspaper, also apparently based in Kyushu, with another editorial
but taking a decisive position on the issue. Entitled "Strategy reconsideration necessary", the piece noted that hopes of normalization at the IWC were unlikely. In conclusion, it said "Japan has requested catch quotas but been rejected by anti-whaling nations for almost 20 years. As long as negotiations are conducted at the IWC, the results are certain to be the same in future. If Japan is serious about obtaining catch quotas, we should probably consider revising our strategy".
On May 28th, an editorial appearing in both the Chunichi Shimbun
and Tokyo Shimbun
suggested that "Japan should work with the likes of Norway, Denmark and Russia to bring about the normalization of the IWC", noting it's mandated purpose of both conserving and making for the sustainable use of whale resources. The editorial praised Japan's plans to not put every issue to a vote and seek to build trust among contracting governments to the extent possible, evaluating that "it is correct to place emphasis on discussions". "Japan should continue to argue persistently for sustainable whaling, and also seek assistance from nations such as the US and Australia in suppressing extreme obstructive actions against the research whaling fleet".
With the IWC meeting drawing to a close, the Kochi Newspaper (from the other southern island of Shikoku, also renowned for whaling and now also whale-watching) published this editorial
. They expressed the view that "the reason why the IWC is dysfunctional is because the anti-whaling nations stress only wild animal protection, and won't change their stance of not accepting scientific data". Anti-whaling nations were also criticised for arguing that a new international monitoring scheme was required before catch limits could be set for the Antarctic minke whale, but then last year aborting talks as such a system would lead to a commercial whaling resumption. While recognising that the path to a commercial whaling resumption via the IWC is a long way off, the Kochi Newspaper nonetheless suggests that "the risks for a resource dependant nation such as Japan withdrawing from the IWC are large, and Japan thus has no choice but to take time and continue attempts to persuade the IWC on a scientific basis".
On the 3rd of June the Shinano Daily's editorial
suggested that "in order to gain understanding for Japan's position, it's important for Japan to increase the transparency of our research, and make our analyses more persuasive".
The 5th of June saw an editorial from the Sanyo Shimbun
, which offered the view that "more important than anything is for Japan to calmly and persistently discuss the matter with IWC contracting governments".
Finally the 6th of June brought the last editorial I have seen on the issue, from the Hokkaido Shimbun Press
. Considering the possibilities available through quitting the IWC, the paper suggested that such an action might lead to retaliation in the form of further restrictions on Japan's tuna fishery. While acknowledging the IWC's treatment of Japan's coastal whaling request as a double-standard, the paper notes that Norway resumed commercial whaling in 1993 while still an IWC member, and that Iceland too resumed commercial whaling last year after quiting the IWC in 1992, then rejoining ten years later. "There is the scope for Japan to aim at a commercial whaling resumption while remaining within the IWC". Finally the paper also cautions that whaling doesn't command a great level of interest amongst the Japanese citizenship.
Amongst the general Internet populace, two huge threads of comments (more than 2,000 responses in each) were posted in response to firstly, Japan's suggestion of possible IWC withdrawal, and secondly the subsequent remark from Australia's Malcolm Turnbull, likening Japan's hinting at possible withdrawal to a baby spitting out it's dummy. The two threads are here
. A huge number of comments were posted in favour of withdrawing from the IWC altogether, with a fairly low proportion of dissenting anti-whaling voices.
I also got an email from a Japanese friend of mine (my translation):
"I think even knowing that there could be various issues with withdrawing, withdrawing would be nice and clean. The IWC was originally a club set up because of a fear of whales being driven to extinction, but now it's opposed to whaling on the basis of "oh the poor whales!" The Japanese joined up with the desire to go on eating whales all our lives. "We hope to eat whale!" "No, that's mean to the whales, so you must not!" Discussions will never be possible like this. Normally, people are anti because they have a low awareness of whale eating. They probably don't feel thankful. First of all, they need to eat Japan's whale cuisine, and understand Japanese people's way of thinking, otherwise I feel talking is just a waste of time.
Withdraw! Withdraw! "
The e-kujira blog also has an entry from Joji Morishita
, in which he explained Japan's approach at IWC 59, and how the situation led to their decision to make a statement on the JFA's options during the IWC meeting.
"I think 'at last' we have started to move in a new direction
", he wrote, which again leads me to recall his statements earlier in the year
- "Something will happen this summer
* * *
Despite what some optimistic editorial writers may believe about the IWC, the whaling issue is not one that will ever be resolved through patient and persistent discussions. Indeed I imagine the fundamental disagreement will still remain with us, regardless of what happens to the IWC over the next few years.
Scientific arguments illustrating the potential of various whale stocks to sustain certain levels of harvest are also irrelevant, as far as resolving the issue goes. While 20 years ago anti-whalers sought to disguise their true objections to whaling in arguments of scientific uncertainty, or concerns about enforcement, today the hard-core amongst them are completely open in their refusal to consider the lifting of the "commercial whaling moratorium" under any set of circumstances.
Hypothetically even if all of the world's sovereign states were IWC contracting governments, it seems likely that neither camp would be able to command the 75% super-majority that the IWC requires to be able to function at all (let alone in accordance with the object and purpose of it's convention).
Akira Nakamae said during his address that, "we are particularly interested in holding preparatory talks to establish an alternative international organisation to manage and conserve cetacean resources".
As a management organization, with the two camps having incompatible aims, the IWC is a failure and is already largely irrelevant. Norway sets it's own catch limits, as does Iceland, and even Japan has commercial whaling operations in relation to whale species that it regards as out of the IWC's management competence. Other whaling states such Canada and Indonesia aren't even IWC members.
But from the perspective of an international gathering to discuss conservation or protection related issues such as ship strike, entanglement in fishing gear, etc, there's reason to believe the IWC might still have a future (albeit with a reduced budget).
Rather than seek to establish a complete duplicate of the IWC, perhaps the focus will be on a new organization with the setting of sustainable catch limits for cetaceans as it's fundamental aim. This much would fill the void in the international management area that has been created by the polarized IWC. How to bring this to fruition is another issue entirely.
Lots to speculate and ponder at the current time - I'm looking forward to the summer.
Labels: IWC 59, Japanese media perspective