Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics
In the western media, anti-whaling groups are often quoted criticising Japan because whale meat has become a delicacy, and more recently in some instances because (according to them) school children are "forced" to eat it through school lunch programmes.
Anti-whaling groups pushed this line quite a lot last year after the establishment of Geishoku Labo, which announced it would seek to establish new markets for whale meat, such as in hospitals and office lunches.
So how much whale meat does actually get disposed of through government supported programmes (*1) like school lunches?
We can get a reasonable idea from the ICR's regular press releases covering disposal of the by-product whale meat from it's research programmes, the latest with respect to the JARPA 2006/2007 season coming out last month (see here if you read Japanese).
As the JARPA programme was cut short this year due to the Nisshin Maru fire accident, fewer whales were caught than in the 2005/2006 cruise, and thus the amount of meat available is accordingly less. The ICR reports a total of 505 minkes and 3 fin whales were captured, with ultimately 2, 105.1 tonnes of whale meat products being made available (versus 3,435.8 tonnes in 2006, see here).
Of the 2105.1 tonnes from JARPA in 2007, 344.8 tonnes (16.4%) has been allocated to public uses, which includes purposes such as local government events and school lunch provision.
The following graph illustrates the amount of meat allocated for public uses (from both JARPA and JARPN programmes) versus the total amount of by-product (JARPA + JARPN) available in recent years.
(* Note that JARPN by-product figures aren't available for 2007 yet and thus aren't included in this graph)Graphing these figures shows that public purpose allocation is a minor contributor to total consumption of research whaling by-product. The actual volumes of meat for public purposes range from a total of 468.1 tonnes in 2002, up to a high of 1,033.8 tonnes in 2004 (26%), and down in 2006 to 896.30 tonnes (16.8%).
In percentage terms, this year's JARPA allocation of 16.4% is roughly in line with last year, although in terms of actual volume, one might surmise that around 900 tonnes of whale meat is required to satisfy demand for those public purposes.
Meanwhile, in contrast, total volumes of outgoing whale meat stock (including meat from both research whaling and other sources) from nationwide frozen and chilled storage facilities have been increasing significantly. This coincides with news of increasing whale meat sales channels in Japan, such as with izakaya chains Hananomai and Tsubohachi upgrading whale meat dishes to their regular menus. Last year, a total of 8,558 tonnes of whale meat left nationwide stockpiles, while just under 9,000 tonnes came in.
* * * Also of note, the ICR announced in the same press release that the average price for minke whale meat will be 6.7% higher, while for fin whale meat prices will be 10.7% higher than for by-product from last year's JARPN programme. Earlier this year officials at the Fisheries Agency's whaling section had commented (Japanese article) that they would do what they could to help limit the impact of the fire accident on whale meat prices.
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(*1) I have previously translated some Japanese news items about whale meat in school lunches (here, here and here) as well as public events (here and here).
Labels: whale meat market