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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



Australia continues gallop towards anti-whaling irrelevancy

Australia's behaviour surrounding matters relating to whaling has made the news twice in recent days, with one story making headline news here in Japan.

Word Conservation Congress Kerfuffle

Firstly, last week the BBC via Richard Black and various Australian media reported on events at a World Conservation Congress meeting held in Barcelona.
A unique consensus between environment groups and whaling nations ... was derailed by a last-minute Australian intervention.
That interpretation from the BBC.
Australia has been accused of bungling international whaling talks and setting back a campaign to save whales.
And that from Australia's own The Australian.

The articles note criticism from (self-proclaimed) "conservation groups", and the BBC article says that an anti-whaling country representative went so far as to describe what happened as "despicable".

The fuss was apparently surrounding the wording of a resolution, which was originally to include the words, "there is inadequate scientific information to support an assertion that controlling great whale populations can increase fisheries yields", but subsequently changed by Australia to read "that the great whales play no significant role in the current crisis affecting global fisheries". The former text was set to gain consensus adoption it seems, where as the latter and final text did not.

The "conservation groups" were complaining about Australia's change as they apparently saw the original wording as a victory - something the western media that reported the story seemed to concur with.

This begs the question that if this were the case, why would pro-sustainable use nations including Japan and Norway agree to such a text in the first place?

To my mind it seems the "conservation groups" and the media that reported the story have fallen into the trap of believing their own propaganda (excluding Richard Black who tends to be able to strike a good balance, but I think he missed part of the story here).

The original statement that the whaling nations were said to be prepared to agree with is in fact nothing spectacular. While it may at first glance seem like a vague way of saying the same thing as Australia's amended version, it's actually very different.

The statement that there is "inadequate scientific information" to draw a particular conclusion regarding a suggested hypothesis doesn't imply that the conclusion is actually false. And with regards to cetaceans and fisheries this does remain an open question.

Richard Black mentions in his article that some years back that,
the IWC's scientific committee had concluded there was no way of providing reliable advice on the impacts of cetaceans on fisheries
The IWC Scientific Committee reaffirmed this in it's 2008 report (see page 56). Again, this does not imply that cetaceans do have no impact on fisheries, only that our science isn't yet as advanced in this area to be able to say much about it reliably.

So the original wording seems to be quite compatible with the positions of the pro-sustainable use nations, that interactions between cetaceans and fisheries warrant scientific research (and indeed Japan's JARPN II programme in the western-north pacific has been being conducted in recent years for this reason, and Iceland too has been running a similar programme).

Yet the "conservation groups" who are still campaigning against whaling have attacked Australia's move at Barcelona, when Australia has to my mind done exactly what would be expected of a staunch anti-whaling nation - ignore whatever the IWC Scientific Committee says and just deny outright that there is any cetacean-fisheries interaction worth taking into consideration for the sake of maintaining one's populist anti-whaling stance.

Perhaps the criticism that Australia copped for this has something to do with their failure to back up their threats with actions since the new Rudd government came to power this time last year. Or maybe their anti-whaling allies are just getting sleepy.

Anti-Whaling Envoy Appointed

The other news that came out, perhaps in response to the criticism last week, was that Australia has finally confirmed that it has appointed former Sydney Olympics chief Sandy Hollway to it's new official anti-whaling crusader position. However, Mr Hollway himself is already sounding rather pessimistic as if to soften up the Australia public:
"I wouldn't want to hold out false hope for a cessation. I think we might be past the point where the definition of success is a complete halt."
Japan already agreed to freeze plans to start sampling Antarctic humpbacks last year with respect to the delicate situation at the IWC, and given Australia's continued behaviour I can't see them winning any additional concessions without being prepared to make some themselves.

But the reason I cover the story is to talk about the response to this news in Japan. The story was posted to the "2ch" message board site's news headline section, where it subsequently racked up a few hundred (largely critical) comments within the space of a couple of hours.

Meanwhile Yahoo! also has the story here. The Yahoo! story also includes many comments in response, and the comments there can be ranked. I'll translate off the top ranked comments, to give English readers an idea:

8: 2008/10/20 10:19
1,450 points
"This coming from the country where they massacre kangaroos..."

3: 2008/10/20 10:02
1,383 points
"I want them to understand other countries' cultures, eh."

6: 2008/10/20 10:13
1,240 points
"I want them to come here once they've gone and protested English fox hunting and Spanish bull fighting. If I were to be harsh I'd say they're creating a side show."

5: 2008/10/20 10:06
784 points
"Chinese poodle Rudd goes anti-Japan because of his failed policies"

4: 2008/10/20 10:05
780 points
"Let's ban tourists from going to Australia. Japanese should stop going to Australia".

22: 2008/10/20 10:30
449 points
"I want them to say this once they've stopped massacring kangaroos.
The Australians are the only people who kangaroo babies out of their mother's pouches, grab their legs and beat them against the ground to kill them.
They are running over kangaroos with cars for real.
I think that's more terrible than killing them for food.

Until recently, Australians were treating Aborigines as if they weren't humans because they are a coloured people. Whales more than people... that's white supremacist Australia for you.
And the reason why whale numbers decreased so much in the first place was the white people were massacring heaps of them for whale oil.

And what's more why is it that they send a special envoy to Japan only. (laugh)
Why don't you send a special envoy to Northern Europe?
Is it because the Japanese are a coloured race?"

44: 2008/10/20 11:07
337 points
"They have no consideration for the eco-system,
and this looks like nothing more than "Japan bashing".
If it were just a some profit making organizations...
But that it's a nation state is just pathetic"

14: 2008/10/20 10:23
281 points
"Well then, should Japan also appoint a kangaroo massacre problem special envoy?"
50: 2008/10/20 11:17
256 points
"Although they are happy enough killing kangaroos, to take a special view of cetaceans without rational reason is just as foolish an action as it is to think that white people are superior without rational reason.
There is no reason at all for Japan to listen to what Australia has to say"
7: 2008/10/20 10:15
236 points
"Personally I wouldn't be put out if I did not eat whale,
but what is the reason for the westerners to be so insistent about this?"

18: 2008/10/20 10:26
222 points
"Hey Australians! Don't eat Aussie Beef! Cows are cute aren't they?!"

Needless to say, I personally don't agree with all of the sentiments that you see expressed in the comments I translated above, but these comments are fairly typical of what I see when reading these discussions (can you tell that hypocrisy doesn't go down well here?). Other comments voiced surprise that Australia is more worried about people killing whales than it appears to be about it's currency crashing in the financial and economic turmoil right now.

* * *

All in all, through the recent news it seems to me that Australia is determined to continue to take actions with more consideration for domestic politics than for the future of the IWC as a serious international organization, or Australia's relevancy to it or international whaling management more generally. On that note, I will note that Japanese officials have been writing interesting things with regards to the "Safety Net" initiative, which I hope to introduce more of sometime in the not to distant future.

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Whale meat stockpile update - August 2008

Here's the August 2008 update for whale meat stockpile figures. Lots of action this month.

Where we left off with the July update last month, the JARPA by-product whale meat auction had been taking place around the country, and concluded on August 9 (ICR).

Additionally news had come in of 270 tons of by-product meat from the JARPN research being put into cold storage in the Ishinomaki area during the month of August as well, so we expect to see the impact of that in the August figures released by the Ministry:
Official PDF (Japanese)
Official MS Excel (Japanese)

August 2008 outgoing stock: 788 tons

This is a 65% increase on the same month in 2007, but there was a bit of a timing difference in the JARPA by-product auction between this year and last so this isn't of great significance.

603 tons of this left so-called "consumption" regions, probably mostly Tokyo.

August 2008 incoming stock: 1,592 tons

Lots of incoming stock this month, the bulk of this will be from the completed JARPN II cruise. The breakdown by species was incidentally 59 Minkes, 100 Seis, 50 Bryde's and 2 Sperm whales.

1,291 tons of this came into "consumption" regions (again, seemingly most to Tokyo), and 301 tons were shipped into "production" regions. As mentioned last month, and at the top of this post, 270 tons of this were reportedly stored away in Ishinomaki (which is a "production" region).

Overall a 54% increase compared with the same month in 2007.

August 2008 end-of-month stockpile: 4,058 tons

Back above 4,000 tons for the first time in a while, and this will probably be the maximum size of the whale meat stockpile in 2008. Usually, the peak occurs after the JARPA by-product hits the stockpiles, but this year it's occurred after the JARPN by-product has been stored.

The stockpile is 25% higher at the end of this month than July, and 11% higher than at the same time last year.

August 2008 top stockpile regions

Here's the August summary of movements in the top stockpile regions:

Stockpile size at
month end
Stockpile size at
previous month end
Tokyo city wards2,168

The big increase in Tokyo this month is a combination of probably 500 or so tons of JARPA leaving storage, and around 1,200 tons coming in from the JARPN cruise.

Ishinomaki had an upward movement due to the small chunk of JARPN meat being shipped in there, and a presumable decrease in existing stocks.

Otherwise not much happening, but the likely storage place of the Icelandic and Norwegian whale meat imports, Funabashi, still contained 300 tons of product that doesn't appear as if it will move anywhere until the import procedures can be completed.

Graph: Annual volumes

Incoming stock jumped well back out in front of outgoing stock by the end of August. Most probably these bars will be back level by the end of the year.

Graph: Monthly volumes

Graph: Outgoing stock (cumulative)

Graph: Incoming stock (cumulative)

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles

* * *

September 2008 figures are scheduled for release on November 10.


Kei Nishikori makes last 4 in Stockholm

The If Stockholm Open has been running this week (unfortunately without Roger Federer), and Japanese rising star Kei Nishikori now finds himself having made it through to the top 4. Not without a bit of good fortune though.

For starters Nishikori, currently 77th in the ATP rankings, was entered into the tournament as a Wild Card.

In the first round he fought through to victory in 3 sets against a Spanish opponent as well as a cold, a sore knee, and presumably a bit of jet lag as he had been playing in the AIG Tokyo Open a week earlier.

Then somehow the tournament schedule saw him gain a two day break before his second round match against former world number 12 Hrbaty, which he again won in 3 sets. His knee was now apparently no longer troubling him.

Then on Friday, due to come up against 2nd seed, Mario Ancic (ranked 31st) he found himself with another day off as Ancic apparently forfeited the match due to a bout of Bronchitis.

As such, Nishikori is now set to snatch at least another 100 ATP points by making the final 4, which will shoot him another 10 or so places higher in the rankings.

In his semi-final he'll be facing 4th seed and 35th ranked Robin Soderling from Sweden. It should make for a good match, as Soderling will have a home crowd cheering him on, while Nishikori is seemingly growing in confidence with each victory. Incidentally, if he happens to reach the final (win or lose) his rank will likely settle around number 50 in the world - something that the 18 year old stated as a revised goal earlier in the year after he broke into the top 100.

This Japanese fan site has a collection of links to Internet videos of Nishikori in action.

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By-caught 6 ton humpback goes for a bargain

Local Japanese media in Iwate, north western Japan covered the story of a humpback whale by-catch in the town of Miyako (also the site of a fin-whale by-catch last December).

The Web Iwate Nippo story has a picture of the humpback lifted up in the air by a crane, and the Asahi's Iwate edition subsequently pictures the humpback in the back of a truck.

The incident happened on the 24th of September, with the humpback being landed at a local fisheries market. People there were surprised as there hasn't been a humpback landing there in recent years.

The whale had been discovered offshore at the entrance to Miyako bay in a set net at 5:30 in the morning, according to the fishing group which found it. The 6.7 metre, approximately 6 ton male whale was reportedly already dead on discovery, and was later auctioned off to a local wholesaler for 300,000 yen. The head of the group said that they tend to catch 1 or 2 whales each year, but humpbacks are unusual.

The Iwate Nippo notes that the ICR in Tokyo explains that the sale of whales of species including humpbacks that have been incidentally caught in set nets has been permitted since 2001. According to Iwate prefecture's fisheries promotion department, this was the first time for a humpback to be caught there since statistics have been recorded since November that year.

The Asahi Iwate edition notes that the whale was transported to a processing facility in the town of Otsuchi.

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