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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



Survey specification of "Statistics on Distribution of Frozen Fishery Products"

On a pretty much monthly basis I have been covering the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries's "Statistics on Distribution of Frozen Fishery Products", with a focus on "whale" in particular.

Some people have mentioned to me that sometimes there are small jumps in the values between months, and other people have asked me about what exactly is included in the survey.

The survey specification is detailed in the PDF documents included in each monthly release, and below is my rough translation of it.

* * *

[Survey Specification]

1 Survey Purpose
This survey has as it's purpose studying incoming and outgoing volumes of fishery products in nationwide refrigeration facilities, to elucidate trends in fishery product stocks, promote demand and supply planning for fishery products, and for price stabilization policy.

2 What the survey covers
The survey's scope is 41 cities and towns designated as "production areas", and 14 cities, wards and towns designated as "consumption areas". Of the refrigeration facilities from within these surveyed cities, wards, towns and villages having main power capability of more than 10 HP, facilities have been selected up to 80% of total refrigeration capacity.
However, regarding the Tokyo city wards and Osaka city, all commercial refrigeration facilities with refrigeration capacity of 10,000 tonnes or more are covered by the survey.

3 Number of surveyed facilities
At the outset of 2007, the number of surveyed facilities was 704.
Note that the number of facilities surveyed can vary due to facility closures, newly established facilities, and facilities suspending operations.

4 Survey method
The survey method is based upon notifications from surveyed facilities and inspection of materials or questioning by survey conducters.

5 Summary method
Monthly Incoming Stock Volume and Monthly Outgoing Stock Volume are summed respectively. The Month-End Stock Volume is calculated as the previous month's Month-End Stock Volume plus Monthly Incoming Stock Volume, less the Monthly Outgoing Stock Volume.

6 Target (actual) precision
No target precision is set for this survey.

7 Explanation of terms
(1) "Versus previous month" value for Monthly Incoming Stock Volume and Monthly Outgoing Stock Volume.

This month's Monthly Incoming / Outgoing Stock Volume (A) divided by the previous month's Monthly Incoming / Outgoing Stock Volume (B), multiplied by 100

(David's supplementary: I.e, (A/B) x 100)

Because of this, when a change in the surveyed facilities occurs, fluctuations caused by this are included in the figures.

(2) "Versus previous month" value for Month-End Stock Volume

This month's Month-End Stock Volume (A) divided by this month's value for
the Previous Month's Month-End Stock Volume (B), multiplied by 100

(David's supplementary: I.e, (A/B) x 100)

Note that when changes in the surveyed facilities occur, this month's value for Previous Month 's Month-End Stock Volume and the Month-End Stock Volume of the previous month's survey may not match.

(3) "Versus same month in previous year" for Monthly Incoming Stock
Volume, Monthly Outgoing Stock Volume and Month-End Stock Volume

This month's Monthly Incoming, Outgiong, Month-End Stock Volume for facilities continuing in the survey (A) divided by the Monthly Incoming, Outgoing, Month-End Stock Volume for facilities continuing in the survey from the same month last year (B), multipled by 100

(David's supplementary: I.e, (A/B) x 100)

8 Other
The values of the results of this statistical survey are round numbers, and finalized values will be published in the "Statistics on Distribution of Fishery Products Yearbook" publication.

* This statiscal survey's results are published on the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries homepage's statistical information.
[ http://www.maff.go.jp/j/tokei/ ]
The data is classified under "Fisheries".

* * *

Above is what's available in the official PDF. Below I present some supplementary information as well.

Particularly with regards to the "whale" figures, people have asked me about what sort of meat is included. Specifications for individual fishery products aren't given, besides the name of the fishery product, so I asked the Ministry about it via their webpage enquiry facility back in March 2007. What they told me when they responded was (my translation):
Regarding the species of whale handled in the "Statistics on Distribution of Frozen Fishery Products", as nothing in particular is specified for the survey, it is not known whether small cetacean species etc are included in addition to the by-product of research whaling and whales entangled in set fishing nets.
For those of us interested in whale meat stocks, it would be good if the Ministry did explicitly specify that meats from large cetaceans (whales) and small cetecean fisheries be reported separately. Sometime in the early 2000's the Japan Agricultural Standard (JAS) law was revised, and JAS guidelines (apparently non-binding) recommend that retailers label their products with species name, rather than simply "whale" (kujira), which can mean either large whale or small cetacean. This is also important from a consumer point of view, as meat from smaller cetaceans is reportedly high enough in contaminants that excessive consumption could pose health risks. I might send this suggestion to them and see what they say.

Another noteworthy thing is that it was post the introduction of the commercial whaling moratorium, small cetacean hunts expanded in scale in Japan. Historically it seems consumption of such meat was limited to regional areas with history of consumption, but with the drastic drop in supply of whale meat products, demand saw small cetacean hunts dramatically expand in size. Apparently up to 40,000 Dall's porpoises were hunted in some years immediately after the moratorium was imposed, and prices for the meat reportedly sky-rocketed by up to 10 times. This was a negative side effect of the moratorium that it's proponents would probably not have intended.

By the early 1990's, a quota system was in place for the Dall's porpoise fishery, and today harvest levels are reportedly around 16,000 a year (slightly within official quotas, and making up around 80% of all cetaceans hunted by Japan each year). However if sustainable commercial whaling were to resume, it seems likely to me that increased whale meat supply would see demand for meat of Dall's porpoises drop even further.

Incidentally, in relation to these frozen fishery product statistics, the Dall's porpoise hunts take place almost all year round, although open and closed seasons differ from region to region. Most of this hunting takes place in northern Japan. Looking at the figures, my guess is that these meats are included in the stockpile figures.


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