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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



Response to Iceland's 2008 whaling quota

It's been interesting to observe the response from a group of International Whaling Commission members to news of Iceland's 2008 commercial whaling quota.


In the year to August 2007, Iceland had issued permits for nine fin whales, and 30 minke whales (there was also an outstanding scientific permit for a small number of minkes as well).

The fin whale quota was granted to Hvalur, which had the hope of exporting fin whale products to the Japanese market. The issue of access to the Japanese market remains unresolved, with the most recent reports in the news media that I have seen noting that Norway and Iceland are "waiting for Japan's response" regarding the matter - this was in late 2007. Depending on the outcome of IWC 60, Japan may finally be able to announce a decision on this matter.

As for the quota for 30 minke whales, meat products from this activity were marketed in Iceland itself.

When the quota period came to an end in August 2007, there was a furore in the western media with Icelandic Fisheries Minister Einar Guofinnsson issuing no revised quota at the time. Reuters quoted him as saying:
"I will not issue a new quota until the market conditions for whale meat improve and permission to export whale products to Japan is secured ... There is no reason to continue commercial whaling if there is no demand for the product."
Many in the west appear to have taken these statements to mean that Iceland intended to withdraw from whaling on a permanent basis, perhaps under the impression that there is no demand for whale meat products - something we often hear from some groups in the commercial anti-whaling industry.

However unlike the media, these groups did (correctly) recognise that this was not a permanent end to whaling, although continued to reiterate their claims that market conditions were unlikely to improve. Also, the International Whaling Commission homepage still today includes a page on Iceland's commercial whaling, unmodified since the time of Iceland's original decision to resume it back in 2006...


With the northern winter over, in May 2008 officials from Iceland's fisheries ministry have recently acknowledged to western media that a new quota has been set for minke whales, with reports that the meat from last year's hunt completely sold out.

The commercial minke quota is up 10, from 30 to 40 this time, although still short of the hopes of Iceland's minke whalers who reportedly hoped to be permitted a catch closer to 100.

Through their new quota allocation, Iceland's fisheries ministry has essentially reaffirmed an official view that Iceland's population of 300,000 appear happy enough to snaffle down at least 40 minke whales (this year).

Said one fisheries ministry official to Bloomberg:
"Minke sashimi is a quite popular starter in Reykjavik restaurants"


Predictably, the same groups from the commercial anti-whaling industry that assert that there is no demand for whale meat were furious, quickly issuing statements suggesting Iceland's economic future is at risk because of the new quotas. Statistics, on the other hand, have shown that tourism to Iceland has continued to increase in recent years, despite Iceland's decision to resume first scientific, then commercial whaling since 2002.

Still, the junior party of Iceland's coalition government sees some risk associated with pursuing a policy of sustainable whaling. Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) party member and current foreign minister for Iceland, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir reportedly said of the latest quota decision:
"I believe this is sacrificing long term interests for short term gains"
Her recognition that there are (at least) short term gains to be had from sustainable whaling is noteworthy, but I've not been able to find more detail about her beliefs regarding Iceland's long term interests. Later when speaking with Condoleeza Rice, she reportedly asserted that the minke quota is sustainable, so I presume she thinks there is something to the idea of sustainable whaling being a threat to the rest of the Icelandic economy.

My prediction is that time will (continue to) show those concerns are largely misplaced.

Below is a round-up from representatives in countries where commercial anti-whaling groups are prominent.

United States of America:
“This is frustrating news. Iceland is pursuing a completely commercial enterprise driven by profit motive with no oversight by IWC members nor analysis by their scientific committee ... I urge Iceland to reconsider this decision and focus on the overarching principles of the Commission rather than the short-term interests of its whaling industry. At a time when we should be doing more to help protect whales, Iceland is going in the wrong direction”
-- U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez
“The United States is deeply disappointed in Iceland’s decision ... The IWC has begun a process to reduce provocation and enhance negotiations within the organization. This new unilateral commercial quota will only serve to undercut progress and good faith negotiations for long-term solutions in the Commission.”
-- Bill Hogarth, U.S. IWC Commissioner

European Union
"While there's an exception to the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on the hunt for scientific or indigenous whaling, Iceland still needs to be demonstrate that it is killing these whales for genuine non-commercial purposes"
-- Barbara Helfferich, Commission Environment spokesperson

New Zealand
“New Zealand welcomed Iceland’s decision to halt whaling last year, and I am troubled that Iceland may be reversing its decision ... Iceland’s resumption of whaling would come at a time when the IWC is making a genuine effort to build trust, and would undermine the trust developed through recent diplomatic efforts.”
-- Steve Chadwick, NZ Conservation Minister

"The loopholes that exist - and this is a loophole, frankly, that Iceland have used - need to be closed ... we need to have firm and rigorous science when we discuss the issues of so-called scientific whaling, and we'll be arguing very strongly that the global moratorium can't be compromised any longer."
-- Peter Garrett, Australian Environment Minister

Closing thoughts

I was somewhat surprised by Mr. Hogarth's comments, albeit only in his capacity as U.S IWC Commissioner. Recall that Norway too continues to unilaterally issue commercial catch quotas, but on a much larger scale than Iceland. This year they set their quota at 1,052, but so far as I have seen Mr. Hogarth has not singled out Norway in the same way as he has with respect to Iceland. This kind of unbalanced and unfair criticism itself bodes poorly for the "good faith negotiations" that he claims will be undercut by Iceland's continuing to issue sustainable whaling permits.

The US's Gutierrez's declaration that Iceland is "going in the wrong direction" by issuing a coastal whaling quota for just 40 minke whales also seems to confirm my expectation (or lack of) with regards to progress towards a compromise at the IWC meeting in Santiago next month.

Finally, if the EU is so keen to speak for member nations on whaling issues their spokesperson will probably want to check those facts before saying irrelevant things in the media.

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Unfortunately David as you've no doubt, by now ascertained, EU spokespersons *can* say any old anti-whaling bigotry and untruth and it will literally be picked up and printed verbatim by the EU media.

You are such a fucking ass. If you want t kill a whale so fucking badly just go out and do it. Better yet, just get a bunch of kittens, throw them in a bag, and bash them into a telephone pole. But stop you high and mighty Japanese cultural supremicy shit. I wish I could met you personally so I can shove a harpoon up your ass. You want it done to other animals why should you be any different?
Thanks for the laugh.
It says something about a guy's culture when he can't spell "cultural supremacy".


It's all the funnier when he can't differentiate between supremacy and diversity.

Glavin's right; bloody dumb hippies!

...me too.

Y/H Japan
Hi Y/H-san, long time no see :)
Hi David-san,

Thank you for your reply.
Glad to see you keep posting
whaling issue.

I always read your nice
comments with much interest.

The IWC will be held in the
end of this month.
I do not think Japan will
handle the meeting without
troubles,but the clear thing
is that SS will be blamed much
more than last year.

I do hope all the world will
sweep out the crazy group.

Thanks :)

Y/H Japan

Yes, still posting about the whaling issue, although due to lack of time (or not wanting to waste time) I don't write anything about SS's behavior anymore.

I suppose Japan will be talking about SS again at IWC 60 next week, but again I expect little in the way of meaningful action from Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

At the end of the day, it's Japanese flagged ships that are out there coming under attack from a foreign flagged vessel on the high seas. It's up to the Japanese government how much of an easy target they wish to allow this ship to be.

I was pleased to see resolutions passed by the Japanese government in relation to this however. Nothing has been mentioned of this in the western media of course.

Meeting minutes and resolution

Thank you for your reply again.

>I don't write anything about SS's >behavior anymore.

OK,probably you might doubt
the Japanese approach ;nothing
is changed to cope with the group. I am also wondering if the Japanese government really has the intention of sweeping out the group...Last year,our government
treated them to serve meals in spite of their illegal behavior.
All the world laughed us ;how kind
the Japanese were to the terrorists. (I firmly felt the terrorists should have been sent to Japan. )

That really gave me much laughter. also with a little sigh.

>I was pleased to see resolutions >passed by the Japanese
>government in relation to this

Thanks for the impotant info.

Seemingly our government is pretending to say NO to the terrorists...but,in real,
might say Yes, as they like.

Crazy might be our government!

Y/H Japan
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