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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 - more on the survey specification

Well, this post is for the readers who are really really interested in these stockpile figures, all the little details, and perhaps you could say, just how well the survey works for the whale meat stockpile figures.

January Survey Specification Change

Previously I wrote up a translation of the specification of the "Statistics on Distribution of Frozen Fishery Products", which you can refer back to here.

The January edition of the survey specification includes a change, which resulted in a slight reduction in the coverage of storage facilities from previous surveys up to the end of 2007.

The survey specification previously stated that in the surveyed production and consumption areas, storage facilities are selected for the survey so as to cover 80% of total refrigeration capacity, but up until the end of December, the survey noted an exception to this with respect to the survey of facilities in the Tokyo and Osaka city regions. Namely, for these two major consumption areas, "all commercial refrigeration facilities with refrigeration capacity of 10,000 tonnes or more are covered by the survey".

The change in the survey specification is that this exception for Tokyo and Osaka has been dropped, as of the figures for January 2008.

As a result, fewer storage facilities are included in the survey now compared with last year. Apparently there were 704 facilities from around the nation included at the beginning of last year's statistics, but this is now down to 670.

For the whale statistics specifically, a consequence of this survey change is the discrepancy in end-of-month stock volumes that I mentioned in my post here about the January figures. Whereas in December 2007 the survey put the stockpile at 3,371 tonnes, the January 2008 survey puts the end-of-month figure for December 2007 at 3,133 tonnes (the survey includes the figure for surveyed facilities at the end of the previous month, as well at the end of the current month, i.e., 3,133 tonnes for December month-end and 2,832 tonnes for January month-end, as of the January survey). For all of the years of statistics that I have available, this is the only significant discrepancy to come about due to a change in the facilities surveyed.

Another general consequence is that going forward the incoming and outgoing figures reported in the survey also will not be reflecting movements for as many facilities, so even if the real-world picture were exactly the same, the survey results would potentially show slightly lower values, if it were facilities containing whale meat that were removed from the survey.

Reconciling Ministry Statistics With ICR Figures

This January survey change has highlighted an aspect of the survey that I had been meaning to write more on at some point, after doing some rough reconciliation of the stockpile figures shown in the Ministry's survey versus the figures released by the ICR on volumes of whale meat released into the market. The figures aren't supposed to reconcile exactly to begin with, as the Ministry figures includes meat of all cetaceans, released into the market through the full range of legal avenues, not only whale meat from research whaling programmes, but still the comparison is worth making. Below is a rough compilation of several years for which I've got both Ministry stockpile figures and ICR figures for the amount of meat made available after the annual JARPA cruise.

2001: The JARPA fleet apparently returned to Ishinomaki in April/01, however the Ministry figures for this month only indicate an increase in stock levels from 158 tonnes to 1,166 tonnes. The ICR didn't start releasing figures of the volume of meat made available until the following year, but basically it looks roughly like a 1,000 tonne increase, only. There was probably more meat than that, but it didn't show up in the figures here.

2002: The Ministry figures put the Nagasaki region stockpile at 55 tonnes as of March 2002, and at 1,991 tonnes as of April 2002. ICR figures released stated that 1,929 tonnes of meat were made available for auction later that year. It appears that all of the meat was included via a facility (or facilities) in Nagasaki.

2003: JARPA returned to port in the Shikoku island prefecture of Kochi this year, however the Ministry's survey seems to not include facilities from this region. Where the meat was actually stored after being off-loaded is not certain, but the Ministry figures note an increase in stock from 226 tonnes to 1,007 tonnes in the Osaka region between the months of March and April for this year. The ICR figures however put the volume of meat released at 1,841.1 tonnes. Osaka is not far from Shikoku geographically, so my guess is that year around 1,000 tonnes of meat was stored in un-surveyed Shikoku facilities (or elsewhere), with the rest being shipped over the Seto inland sea to Osaka.

2004: JARPA seemingly returned to port in Hakodate that year, and Ministry figures note a stockpile increase from 4 tonnes to 928 in Hakodate for the relevant months. Again however the ICR figures of 1,922.8 tonnes indicate that around 1,000 tonnes of meat were stored in a facility not covered by the survey.

2005: A JARPA fleet return to the port of Yokohama is evidenced this year by Ministry figures for Yokohama stating stock levels went from 0 tonnes to 1,892 between March and April that year. ICR figures almost reconcile perfectly here, with 1,895.1 tonnes said to have been made available (only a 3.1 tonne discrepancy). Note also that this was the final year of the original JARPA programme, and that from the next year the JARPA II programme commenced.

2006: Ministry figures in March indicated a jump in volume from 80 to 1,032 tonnes in Tokyo, and then from a (as of the current time, unknown but at least very) low level to 2,553 tonnes in Kanazawa in April. The ICR figures released put the total volume of meat at 3,435.8 tonnes.

2007: Ministry figures for March indicate a jump from 707 tonnes to 2,336 tonnes in Tokyo, versus ICR figures stating 2,105.1 tonnes of meat were made available.

So what we see when looking at the data for previous years, the stockpile figures appear in some years to not illustrate the full volume of meat that available, if we are working based on the ICR figures, which are more accurate. This seems to be due to the survey not including the specific facilities where the meat is stored at those particular times.

2003 was a clear example, with the fleet returning to an area known to not be included in the Ministry's survey, whereas other years such as 2002 when the meat appeared in Nagasaki look to have the full volume of meat reflected more accurately.

In summary, the real stock volume for whale isn't reflected 100% in the figures, and due to the limited supply of whale meat being concentrated in relatively few facilities, if one such facility isn't in the survey then the Ministry figures can be misleadingly low. The important thing when using the figures to look for real trends is to make comparisons between years where it appears the meat is stored in facilities that are being surveyed - such as 2002 and 2005, 2006 (and probably 2007 as well). The other years will be reflecting less whale meat movements than was actually the case.

This year

This year, we can expect JARPA meat to probably show up in Tokyo and Kagoshima stockpile figures, as the Oriental Bluebird and Nisshin Maru which carry the whale meat will be returning to those ports respectively. Both the Tokyo and Kagoshima regions are included in the survey, so if the meat is stored in the facilities surveyed they should be reasonably accurate.


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