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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



NZD falling

I've been waiting for this to happen for quite a while now - the NZD is falling against the yen.

Earlier this week it cracked the 97 yen level (this makes it almost twice as cheap to buy a big mac in Japan than in New Zealand).

This morning:
Live rates at 2007.07.27 23:22:33 UTC

1.00 NZD = 90.7706 JPY

New Zealand Dollars Japan Yen 1 NZD = 90.7706 JPY 1 JPY = 0.0110168 NZD
If you look at the charts from this page you might have guessed this would happen...



"Dangerous and malicious obstruction" - more from Y/H-san

Y/H-san kindly wrote with information about a magazine report here in Japan. I will reproduce his comment here (less the Japanese characters from the original comment):
David-san & all,

SAPIO, a magazine of Japan,widely reported the violence of SSCS as special report.

The outline of SAPIO is

The title is "The Japanese research vessels attacked by the eco-terrorism of the radical NGO ."

The summary of the article is as follows.

1. The dangerous behaviors of SS.
2. The difficulty of the arrest of the insane group.
3. The relation of SS and GP.
4. The discussion at the government to cope with the crazy group.
5. The worry about the big accident(including human death)at high sea in the near future.


My view is as follows.

The terrorism of SS should be widely known with many voices criticizing the insane group. Our government should let more people know the fact and put the stronger pressure to the Japan Marine Police to give direct punch to the crazy group. At least, some of the Japanese Marine Police members should attend at the next research of this year.

Sadly to say, the cooperation of New Zealand was not enough but they did some assistance to Japan.
We should appreciate for it.

On the other hand, regarding Australia, their behavior were unbelievable. They should have let the crazy group get out immediately in order not to be regarded as the terrorist supporting nation, not only by Japan but also many countries over the world. They should know better since IWC knows it.

David-san, sorry, I took wide space for this comments.


Thanks for the info Y/H-san, your information is more than welcome. I will also look to pick up a copy of SAPIO.




Whale meat stockpile update - May 2007

The monthly marine product stockpile figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan out today (Japanese PDF format, Excel format). No big surprises here, but the whale meat figures for May 2007 contained were as follows.

May 2007 outgoing stock: 469 tonnes

This figure is in line with the expectations I wrote of in last month's update based on lower outgoing stock volume in the first 6 months of the year, and the current situation of limited stocks of ready-for-sale meat.

This May 2007 figure of 469 tonnes is actually a 32% increase on the same month last year.

May 2007 incoming stock: 240 tonnes

Slightly less incoming stock in May than for April, but this figure is a 90% increase on the same month last year.

May 2007 overall stockpile movement: Down 229 to 4,175 tonnes

Last month's end-of-month total stockpile figure was 74% of that of the same month in 2006. This month for May again, the figure of 4,175 tonnes is slightly less - 73% of that size of the stockpile at the same time last year.

Graph: Annual volumes

As expected, the gap between incoming and outgoing whale meat stock volume for 2007 narrowed further in May. The gap was 500 tonnes at the end of April, and by the end of May outgoing stock volume (3,265 YTD) was only 271 tonnes behind incoming stock volume.

With the June figures probably going to reflect the first week of JARPA by-product sales, we will likely observe that the YTD outgoing whale meat stock volume has overtaken incoming stock volume when the June figures are released.

YTD outgoing stock volume is also remains significantly higher (19.5%) than at the same time last year (it was 2,732 tonnes as of May 2006).

Also, YTD incoming stock volume is still approximately 30% lower than at the same time in 2006.

Graph: Monthly stockpile movements

Just another regulation month here, but with the first week of JARPA by-product sales to possibly be reflected in next months figures, the pink stockpile line will probably slant a few degrees further downwards when I next update this picture.

Graph: 12-month moving averages

Both incoming and outgoing stock volume figures in May were larger than the same month in 2006, so these 12-month moving averages both head up a touch.
The outgoing 12-month moving average is 757.6 tonnes, and the incoming average is 627.1 tonnes.

I'm predicting that next month will see the outgoing figure maintained at the same level (if not a little higher), but with less JARPA by-product available to leave stockpiles this year, by the end of July we should probably see the outgoing stock average drop down quite sharply. The 2006 July outgoing stock figure alone was a monster 1,723 tonnes, which is only a few hundred tonnes short of the total amount of JARPA by-product available in 2007.

I'm not sure of the exact dynamics of the JARPA by-product auction though, and with whale meat getting positive media coverage recently, you never know.

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles

A summary of the top 7 stockpile location movements in May 2007 is below (previous month's level in parenthesis):

1. Tokyo wards: Down 99 (4.4%) to 2,171 tonnes (2,270)
2. Ishinomaki: Up 30 (6.1%) to 518 tonnes (488)
3. Hakodate: Down 76 (16.7%) to 378 tonnes (454)
4. Osaka: Down 14 (5.9%) to 225 tonnes (239)
5. Kushiro: Down 45 (16.7%) to 224 tonnes (269)
6. Kanazawa: Down 5 to 223 tonnes (228)
7. Shimonoseki: Down 1 to 123 tonnes (124)

I believe that almost all of the stock in Tokyo is the JARPA by-product, so the Tokyo figure will probably drop away over the next couple of months.
The rise in stock in Ishinomaki is probably attributable to the first coastal component of the JARPN II research programme taking place in that area.

The top 7 locations again contain 92.5% of the overall whale meat stock as of the end of May. I am guessing the JARPA by-product sale will see a lot of this stock dispersed to storage facilities in other parts of the country.

* * *

June figures will be released by the ministry on August the 13th.




Whale price hike amidst "sense of stock shortage" - Nikkei

Japan's leading economic newspaper, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) carried a report on wholesale whale meat prices yesterday:
Whale meat wholesale prices raised for the first time in 10 years

Whale meat wholesale prices have risen for the first time in 10 years. This
is due to a strong sense of stock shortage following a decrease in supply due to
a fire accident on a research whaling vessel, and a recovery in demand since the
latter half of last year. The percentage price rise for product categories such
as red meat and blubber was an average of 7%. At the current time the effect of
the price rise hasn't been observed in shop prices, but amongst retailers there
are concerned voices that "if wholesale prices rise further, it may throw cold
water on the recovery in whale meat popularity".

Whale meat is sold by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research
foundation ("Geiken", Chuo, Tokyo) as a "by-product" of research whaling.
Research is mainly conducted twice a year, in the Antarctic Ocean and in the
western North Pacific. This year in February, the mother ship "Nisshin Maru"
suffered a fire outbreak while in the Antarctic. The research was cancelled and
the ship returned to Japan with approximately 2,100 tonnes of whale meat,
approximately 60% of what was scheduled. (19:01)

No surprises in this for regular readers of this blog (I suggested upward pressure on retail prices in my previous whale meat stockpile update), but it's worth noting that Japan's leading economic newspaper has picked up on the story.

One thing in the article that I don't agree with is the suggestion that whale popularity has only been increasing since the second half of last year. The 12-month moving average outgoing whale meat stock figures in the stockpile figures I have been covering indicates that consumption has been increasing since at least the beginning of 2005.

Furthermore, given that whale meat prices are still relatively high (even before this 7% price hike), I believe that limited supply has had a capping effect on consumption (as opposed to low demand). The report from an anti-whaling journalist last year of a whale meat "glut" was seemingly accepted by the media without any critical analysis.

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"Dangerous and malicious obstruction"

The Japan Whaling Association recently updated their page of Japanese news articles.

There were a few interesting ones in relation to the obstruction / piracy that the JARPA fleet has been subjected to in the last couple of years.

This story covers a meeting of an alliance of Liberal Democratic Party parliament members backing whaling held on the 17th of May.
... a resolution was adopted relating to obstruction of JARPA.
The resolution contained two items, in light of the dangerous and malicious obstruction of anti-whaling groups, which ought to be called criminal acts, conducted towards the JARPA research fleet:
1) By various methods such as making strong requests to each related country through diplomatic channels, suppress the sailing of vessels belonging to groups such as Sea Shepherd that undertake obstructive activities
2) In the case that it is not possible to see this realized effectively, defend the research fleet by other means such as dispatching a vessel from an organization with jurisdiction within the area of ocean under survey
A subsequent news item covered the group's meeting again on June 13, where they received a report from the government on the IWC 59 meeting. This article is mainly about the Japan's re-evaluating it's approach to the IWC, but at the very end of the article:
... Additionally, regarding the state of affairs with Sea Shepherd's obstruction activity towards research whaling, it was explained that Japan will proceed by cooperating with Australian officials on the matter. There were calls for much more progress to be made.

It was a few days later that Sea Shepherd was reported to have been granted the "flag" of an Indian reserve in Canada.

For their part, Sea Shepherd have finally reported this news on their own homepage (here). Says their news release:
The presentation of the Mohawk flags for the Robert Hunter and the Farley Mowat is an historical event. Never before has there been deep-sea, foreign-going ships flying under the colors of the Mohawk nation or any other indigenous American sovereign nation.
I'm no legal expert, and no offence to these indigenous peoples, but I don't think international law will recognise them as a "sovereign nation", nor their flag as valid. It's not the first time Sea Shepherd have made it up to suit themselves as they go along though, so no surprise there.
The flying of the Mohawk colors will open up some controversial legal issues involving indigenous rights that Sea Shepherd is quite happy to champion.
That is one side show that I probably won't be covering here, unless it somehow remains relevant.




Gray whale news from off Sakhalin

Earlier in the year I featured a Japanese report of the entanglement and death of a western gray whale off the north eastern coast of Japan.

Entanglement is by no means the only threat this population is struggling with. Reuters has an update on the issue of noise disturbance in the western pacific gray whale's feeding ground:
Noise from a Russian gas field in the Pacific Ocean is driving the endangered grey whale away from one of its few feeding grounds, says the WWF environmental group.


... construction work at a Russian gas project is forcing them away from their natural habitat.
A spokesman for the Sakhalin Energy project had this to say:
"The acoustic monitoring buoys detected no unusual noise and at no time did noise levels at the outer edge of the feeding area exceed the action criteria levels" ...

Sakhalin Energy is ready to share and discuss data with environmentalists, he said.

WWF's full press release is here.
* * *

IWMC World Conservation Trust also featured this issue in their February 2007 edition of sustainable eNews.

* * *

UPDATE 07/06: Sakhalin Energy's homepage has more information from their perspective. A meeting of the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel was apparently held in April:
The specialists participating in the Sakhalin Energy -ENL WGW study who also took the floor at the meeting, noted that the offshore construction works carried out in summer 2006 to connect the shore with the Molikpaq and PA-B platforms in the framework of the Sakhalin II Project had no detectable adverse impact on Gray Whales distribution and behavior in the Piltun foraging area.
This contrasts quite strongly with the impression given by WWF.

There is little mention in the IWC Scientific Committee's report of this meeting or it's findings.

WWF is to be congratulated for their interest in this issue although members of the public will likely be scratching their heads with regards to who's story they ought to believe.




Minke whale at Bistro Kinta

Bistro Kinta is a rather pricey izakaya that seems to specialize in French cuisine. I checked it out once a couple of months ago. While the food was very nice, a decent meal costs a fair bit more than one usually wants to pay, so I had passed up further opportunities to eat there.

Then about a week or so back Kana and I happened to pass by and she noticed (for my benefit) some interesting items on the menu:

English translation of the 5th item from the top:
Minke whale, seared (tataki) or deep fried (tatsuta-age) - 1,200
With my eye (constantly in search of whale cuisine), I doubt I could have missed this when I dined there previously, so I assumed that this was a new addition to their menu in the interim.
(Funny, I didn't know whale was an ingredient in French cuisine?!)

Anyway, I naturally managed to find an opportunity to sample one of these seemingly new additions (i.e., earlier this evening).

Out of this picture to the right was my dish of shoyu (soy sauce) and another of ponzu (a sauce which looks similar to soy sauce but also with citrus juice mixed, in I gather). This was the first time for me to try while with ponzu. It was OK, but I reverted to the standard of whale, with ginger, dipped in plain soy sauce.

Very good! I knew I could expect quality at Bistro Kinta (^o^)

I'd like to give the tatsuta-age a try as well sometime, but like I said, this isn't the type of place that the old wallet says you can go to every day of the month... The minke dish alone was 1,200 yen (about 9.8 USD using current x-rates), but I also had another salad dish, a beer, myer's rum (on the rocks)... Throw in the service charge and it all starts to mount up.

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