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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



Large whale by-caught in Iwate

Another by-catch incident in Iwate was reported in the Japanese media.

This time thankfully it wasn't another endangered western gray whale, but a more common fin whale.

The Iwate edition of the Asahi Shimbun has the story (see the original article for a good photo), my rough translation follows:
11-metre whale caught in set net - Iwaizumi town

A huge baleen whale measuring 10.75 metres in length was found caught in a set net belonging to the Komoto bay fisheries cooperative of Iwaizumi town on the morning of the 17th. It took all of 27 set net fishermen to bind the whale to a boat and bring it back to shore, where it was landed by a large truck at the Miyako market.

According to the set net's lead fisherman, Ichiro Miura (42), when the salmon set net was checked at around 9 A.M., a whale was found entangled in it, already limp.

After receiving notification from prefectural authorities, the Institute of Cetacean Research (Tokyo) investigated and advised that the whale was a large fin whale, which can grow up to 20 metres. As for whales entangled in set nets which can not be set free, except in the case of specially designated species, it is possible to sell whale carcases under Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries law. This whale too was quickly put to auction as soon as necessary procedures, including the preservation of a sample from the whale's fin for DNA examination, were completed.

With fin whales falling in the "high-class item" category amongst whale species, a Miyagi prefecture dealer bought the whale for 7,000,000 yen. Even the initially sober faced Miura, who had been lamenting the ruin of his net, said "Great, I got a bonus", after fetching the unexpectedly high price.
Another article notes the Miyagi buyer was a marine products processor, and the whale was cut up at the market. The ICR was also quoted again, noting that fin whales are found throughout the world, but are rarely landed in Japan. Most whales landed off the coast of Iwate are apparently minke whales, and they tend to be caught off the Ofunato coast, in the south of Iwate (Miyako city is further north). A Miyako market related person said that usually they will only see about 1 whale a year there, and was surprised to see such a large one come in.

Incidentally, 7,000,000 yen is more than $60,000 USD at today's exchange rate. It's not clear exactly how much meat was obtained, but it seems like a pretty good deal compared with the regulated whole-sale prices.

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