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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



Norwegian whale imports approved

Breaking news:

Norway's whale meat approved as well, first time in 20 years

That's the headline at Tokyo Shimbun.

The Kyodo News article says that the Japanese government approved an import of 5.6 tons of whale meat from Norway at the beginning of February, and this was acknowledged by authorities in both countries.

The article notes that it was just last year in September that 66.6 tons of whale meat from Iceland was approved, and that it appears that the Japanese government is looking to support the only two nations conducting commercial whaling on the consumption front.

Additionally the article suggests that this could lead Europe, the USA and Australia to step up their criticisms of Japan at the IWC's inter-plenary meeting that will start in Rome from March 9.

The Norwegian whale meeting is reported to have arrived at Nagoya's port last year in June, leading related agencies and ministries to consider how it be handled. A domestic importer officially submitted an import request to the Fisheries Agency this year at the end of January, and the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry approved this on February 6. This is the first whale meat import since 1988.

Of the 5.6 tons, the portion for eating raw was found to be in excess of bacteria regulations during inspections carried out after the import approval was granted, and so it was not accepted, however the portion for use in cooking is expected to pass through customs shortly so long as it has no problems on the food safety front.

Regarding the fact that the import took 8 months to complete from the time of arrival until the time of approval, the Fisheries Agencies Far Seas Fisheries division explained that the procedural matters went slowly because it's the first import in a long time.

* * *

The Japan Times is running an English version of the story from the same source (Kyodo) but with some differences to the Japanese version.
The Norwegian meat arrived at Nagoya port last June, but the Fisheries Agency waited until late January to file for permission to import it.
The Japanese version is explicit that the import request came from a domestic importer, so for that and other reasons it seems like the English version is wrong to report that it was the Fisheries Agency requesting import permission. Indeed, as a part of the government it would make no sense if the Fisheries Agency were requesting import permission.

But the English version has more details regarding the delays:

"There is some sensitivity because it's whale meat," a Fisheries Agency official said when asked why it took eight months to get the OK after the meat arrived.

Another reason was the paperwork, the official said. It's been awhile since the agency has had to deal with whale meat from Norway, the official explained.

Some observers suspect the delay reflects caution on the part of the government, which is concerned that the decision could stoke rebuke from antiwhaling nations.

* * *

At any rate, this is very promising news for the Norwegian whale meat exporters and whalers alike, not to mention whale meat consumers in Japan, although from the article it seems clear there are still some outstanding issues surrounding food safety and timely completion of procedures. Yet one can't help but wonder if the procedural delay wasn't at least a contributing factor to the problems with the meat for raw consumption.

As for the anti-whaling nations, we don't hear India complaining when Australia exports hundreds of thousands of tons of beef to Japan each year, and likewise anti-whaling nations have no right to complain about legal bilateral trade between whale meat producing nations and Japan. Nor should Japan feel obliged to pay undue attention if such complaints are forthcoming, but of course, Japan will be Japan.

Nonetheless, the timing here is fortunate. Indeed the anti-whaling nations should be in no two minds that whaling nations are going to continue to be whaling nations, despite what the commercial anti-whaling industry might say to the contrary and regardless of what goes on at the IWC. The IWC has the mandate of conserving whale stocks and regulating whaling, but not regulating trade in whale products.

With respect to the IWC, the anti-whaling nations are in a position only to decide whether they want to play an active, constructive role in the management of whaling. This is where their thoughts ought to be focused, not on trade related matters that are none of their business.

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Re trade of whale products from Norway to Japan , I expect the Norwegian attitude will be very cautious .

Indeed the whaling nations won't give up whaling for a long time. Anyone claiming victory for anti whaling is deranged.

It is as well noteworthy that the Icelandic Fisheries Minister supported a " small-scale domestic whaling". See the Guardian article from the February 24th. Methinks anti whalers were shocked by this statement , as Sigfusson had a name/ reputation as a green/ lefty anti whaler.
Yes, I wonder what sort of "green" he is? In New Zealand the Green party is basically anti-trade. I wonder if the same thinking is behind his dislike of the sustainable quota set by his predecessor.
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I read a quite " funny " story in a Norwegian paper today.

During the soccer championship in the US in 1994 , some Norwegian supporters carried the banner " We eat whales"!

This made that the Washington Post wrote a sharp article against Norwegian whaling.
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