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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



News on whale meat trade negotiations

An Iceland representative in Japan was reported in the Chunichi newspaper on October 9 saying that they were continuing to negotiate with Japanese officials on a recommencement of trade in whale meat products, and were hoping to secure access "by next spring".

Unfortunately the article disappeared from the Internet quite quickly so I'm unable to provide additional detail but, as avid readers will know, around the same time the Iceland government also announced that they wouldn't be renewing the commercial quotas for the new season.

Most anti-whaling groups were rather pleased, but others (if I recall correctly, WWF International namely) were critical, as the reason for the quota not being renewed was that "no market" for the whale meat had been secured. Indeed at the time Iceland's IWC representative was quoted in the western media stating that negotiations to gain access to the target Japanese market were continuing. Nonetheless, earlier statements from related parties had suggested that the Icelanders had been hoping access would be secured by the end of summer 2007.

Incidentally, the apparent stock of meat Iceland has available - something like 250 tonnes of fin whale meat - would seemingly be absorbed pretty easily by the Japanese market, which over the past 12 months has seen average outgoing stock at around 700 tonnes per month, or 8,400 tonnes. Iceland's additional supply would amount to only an additional 2~3% supply.

More recently, this Jiji Tsushin article appeared on December the 13th. This time it's about Norway, my rough translation below for English readers:
Whale meat imports "waiting for Japan's response" - Norwegian ambassador to Japan hopes for recommencement after 19 years

Norway's Ambassador to Japan, Åge Grutle
, made it known that his country is proceeding with negotiations with the government regarding Norway's desire for Japan to import meat from whales caught there. The Ambassador stated that "Norway wants to resume exports next year. We are waiting for Japan's response". It would be the first time since 1989 if Japan does resume whale meat trade with Norway.

Regarding whale meat imports, Japan is also considering a trade resumption with Iceland, with which the trade had continued up until 1991. There is said to be no problem with whale meat trade with respect to the Washington Treaty (CITES). Japan is also hoping to strengthen ties with nations that support whaling through the trade resumption. However, as there would be an inevitable response from western anti-whaling nations, the Fisheries Agency "wishes to carefully observe the circumstances both at home and abroad" (far seas fisheries division), and is taking a cautious approach towards making the final decision.
As for circumstances abroad, apparently a Norwegian whalers union recently called upon it's government to cease co-operation with Japan on whaling issues until the issue of trade access is resolved.

The Iceland government's decision to hold off on issuing further commercial whaling quotas until a market for the meat has been found appears to have a similar intent behind it.

Back in Japan, Toshio Katsukawa, a fisheries researcher who regularly criticises the Fisheries Agency, suggested on his blog that Japan ought to move to resume trade with Iceland and Norway, and in doing so make clear the financial benefits available through sustainable whaling. As I understood him, it seemed he thought this would see other nations also switch to the sustainable whaling camp at the IWC, and thus heighten the pressure for overturning the moratorium.

As far as the whaling issue is concerned, to my mind resuming trade can only be a positive for Japan and the whaling camp (although I won't be holding my breath waiting for the western anti-whaling nations to adopt a sustainable whaling policy as a result). However these matters evidently aren't quite so simple. More waiting-and-seeing I'm afraid!

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