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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



Whale meat stockpile hits 4-year low

Japan's whale meat stocks hit a 4-year low in February, sinking to 2,485 tons at the end of the month, according to official figures from a Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries survey.

Levels of whale meat in nationwide refrigeration facilities have not been as low since 2004, when stocks had sunk as low as 1,617 tons in March that year.

Behind the recent decline in stock levels is a combination of increased volumes of stock shipped, and a supply shock in 2007, when a fire accident resulted in the second JARPA II cruise being cut short two-thirds of the way through. Outgoing stock volumes exceeded 8,000 tons in both 2006 and 2007 (8,558 and 8,148 tons respectively), but incoming stock volume dropped to 7,583 tons in 2007 versus 8,950 tons in the previous year, the effects of which reverberated through the market. Outgoing stock shipment levels in the first half had outpaced those of the previous year by almost 900 tons, but conversely ran at a lower pace in the second half, with JARPA II by-product in shorter supply than 2006. In October the Minato Shimbun, a leading fisheries industry newspaper, reported that the healthy sales and stock shortage had led to the JARPN II by-product auction being brought forward a month.

In 2008, with stocks already at low levels, whale meat distributors and retailers appear likely to find themselves in an even tighter supply situation. The third JARPA II cruise was again severely hampered by malicious obstruction from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who were subsequently condemned by the IWC in a consensus resolution at it's March intersessional meeting in London. An indirect effect of the disruption is that the research whaling by-product meat supply is likely to be similarly restricted in 2008. As stocks were at healthier levels above 3,000 tons in early 2007, there is not likely to be any room for expansion of the market in the current year. Retail price rises for whale meat in 2008 seem inevitable.


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