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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



IWC 2004: US Government shows it has honour

The US, usually a fairly staunch anti-whaling nation that votes in an unprincipled and irrational manner at the IWC, has made quite a remarkable decision to support a proposal for the hurried agreement of the new whaling management scheme. The plan is widely supported by pro-whaling nations, such as Japan and Norway.

New Zealand and other nations that take a firm "NO WHALING! WHALES ARE SPECIAL!" line at the IWC on the other hand thumped the proposal, which was drafted by the Chairman of the IWC himself, saying that it was "fatally flawed". The problem these nations of course have is that the proposal recognises the reality that whales are edible, which is not politically acceptable in New Zealand.

The US government on the other hand, which is home to whalers itself, has finally decided to accept that catch quotas based on sound scientific advice can be set.
"The text of the U.S. resolution said that any failure to reach broad agreement on a management scheme "would jeopardize the ability of the IWC to fulfill its responsibility of ensuring the effective conservation of whale stocks and the responsible management of whaling.""

This constructive display by the US helps to restore some faith that it's government can display good leadership in international politics. One hopes that if New Zealand's government found itself in a similar position of responsibility it would act more rationally than it does now.

In the meantime, anti-whaling groups labelled the US decision "inexplicable", rather than accusing the Japanese of buying the US vote, as they do when small developing nations vote in line with them :-) Why would this be?


UPDATE (6:03 AM):
The IWMC has a summary of the highlights of IWC 2004.

New Zealand's Delegates both got special mentions:
1) Conservation Minister Chris Carter, for "MOST LUDICROUS CLAIM":
New Zealand Conservation Minister's statement on the abundance of minke whales: "Every whale species got down to less than five per cent of what it was a hundred years ago." During the last hundred years the Antarctic minke whale population has increased from 80,000 to 760,000.

2) Former Prime Minister and now Commisioner Sir Geoff Palmer (good to have a nice retirement job I guess) for "MOST TIRESOME SPEAKER".

On Page 2, The New Zealand boys get further blasting, particularly with Chris Carter:
"Palmer's lack of graciousness on the vote-buying issue was equaled only by his excitable and badly-informed Conservation Minister who has no knowledge, and even less interest, about whale populations. In the world of Mr. Carter all whales are on the brink of extinction. His passion is fueled by his misunderstandings and stoked by the love of his own voice. It's time he grew up and stopped embarrassing his country."

I wonder if this point of view will ever hit the New Zealand newspapers?



How many metres can you get the drunk down the road?

I saw in the news that the Germans are the worst binge drinkers in Europe these days. This link is related and a pretty good time killer it seems...



Rikugien: from Takimi-no-chaya Posted by Hello


Look at all the fish and turtles!! Posted by Hello



IWC 2004: NZ's bullying tactics

The IWMC is running coverage of the 56th IWC meeting in Sorrento, including an interesting section on New Zealand's political games as they try to convince nations into voting against whaling - at the same time they have been waving their big aid carrot about the place...

"New Zealand has admitted putting pressure on small Pacific island states to oppose all commercial whaling at the same time that it is increasing regional aid spending.

Last month, directly after New Zealand’s Foreign Minster, Phil Goff, announced a substantial increase in educational support for the Solomon Islands during a regional tour, he raised the question about that nation’s support for the sustainable utilization of whale resources. A few days earlier, Mr. Goff was arm-twisting in Palau, telling that country’s Vice President to oppose whaling at the IWC. Palau also relies heavily on financial aid from New Zealand.

New Zealand has no economic or commercial interest in whaling and in the past has not publicly linked its regional overseas aid budget to the way countries vote at the IWC."


IWC 2004: End Moratorium - IWC Chairman

IWC 2004: End Moratorium - IWC Chairman
The Khaleej Times is running a story on how ill IWC Chairman Henrik Fischer has issued a call for the commercial whaling moratorium to be lifted within 2 years. He noted that “At present our organisation (the IWC) is not generally seen to be working effectively and indeed the present polarised views and actions, are, I believe, detrimental to conservation”.

In the meantime, some "conservationist" has come out asking "why are countries like Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Mongolia, Gabon, Benin, Grenada and Tuvalu - to name a few - so ignored by the international community that they need to bargain away the future of cetaceans for aid money from Japan?" After so many years of brainwashing by the western media, I guess it is understandable that one could find it all so confusing. To find the answer, one of course only needs to take a step back, and observe that these nations are all voting in line with their belief in the principle that natural resources can and should be sustainably utilised. "Conservationists" seem to have no comprehension of such a simple and natural concept. These nations haven't been ignored, they are just voicing their opinion - just as anti-whaling Switzerland does (and do the Swiss have a coast line? They have the America's Cup I guess, but that's not quite the same...)



2004 Bledisloe Cup!!

The big game is coming up this Saturday!! With New Zealand and Australia clearly the two best international rugby teams in the world at present this is going to be the best rugby this year! Once again I have been talking up the All Blacks to a victory, but unlike last year when I bet my boss and workmates a free lunch that we would win the World Cup, I'm playing it safe this time... But it is a safe bet that it will be a top class game. Can't wait!!


IWC 2004: The Charade continues

Every year the script is the same. "This year the Japanese may gain the numbers to over turn the whaling moratorium!"

And then the whales will be for it, or so the gist of it goes.

We see these reports from anti-whaling politicians. We also see them from anti-whaling "NPOs" such as IFAW and Greenpeace.

They tell us that the Japanese are out there buying votes. First it was the Caribbean nations. The Caribbean nations sold their votes to the Japanese, is the story that we hear. Never mind the fact that the Caribbean nations are home to active whaling communities (see this for some background). The fact that they are recipients of an ODA package from Japan is hardly evidence, as Japan is perhaps the worlds largest donator of overseas aid, with around 150 beneficiary nations - including anti-whaling as well as pro-whaling nations. The Caribbean nations are clearly going to vote in favour of whaling because the Caribbean is home to whaling peoples.

What is most offensive about such allegations is that the anti-whaling groups themselves were originally responsible for the recruitment of these nations into the IWC. They appointed phony representatives who were affiliated with anti-whaling groups, with the intention of using the Caribbean votes in order to put the existing Commercial Moratorium in place. This press release details how "the islands evicted and replaced the false commissioners with Caribbean people when they discovered they were not acting in the national interests of the islands nor adhering to the principles of sustainable utilization."

This year the complaint is about Tuvalu - an island in the middle of the sea that obviously would have great interest in sustainable resource use.

One wonders if the same people complain about the presence of certain landlocked European nations at the IWC - voting against the whalers despite having no coastline.

The young man from IFAW also spouts off about how Japan wants to introduce secret ballots at the IWC. This would make it impossible to track "vote buying", he complains. His groups needs to be able to identify pro-whaling nations for what purpose? Attack them with threats of boycotts (see the Iceland case last year), and propaganda campaigns. In any normal democratic system, secret voting is commonplace. But the IFAW would rather run the IWC like Saddam ran Iraqi "elections".

The reasons behind these silly reports is the same every year: Politics and greed. The politicians in anti-whaling nations love to talk up the chances of the pro-whalers before the meeting, so that when they anti-whaling nations block the lifting of the Commercial Moratorium for another year, they can hold it up as a victory, and suck up some green votes. And the "environmentalists" like IFAW will talk about it forever, because donations for their anti-whaling campaigns are an incredible cash cow. What better way to keep the coffers filled than by continuing on with the "save the whales" campaign if they can get away with it?

At the end of the day, it's all a big charade. Everyone knows that the pro-whalers won't have the numbers this year either.

UPDATE 15/07: The Highnorth alliance has a Survival Kit that summarises of all the nonsense that is to be expected this year. There is a good bit on the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary that almost sounds like I could have written it :-)
"Without any chance of attaining the required 75% support to be adopted, Australia and New Zealand will once again propose a South Pacific whale sanctuary, and Brazil and Argentina will propose a South Atlantic sanctuary. It appears that these governments continue with their posturing to “save” super-abundant whales in order to attain a green image. Whether their domestic constituencies still wish to be fooled, remains to be seen."

Well, the politicians can hardly be blamed if the public (or at least, those few who actually give a crap about whaling) are happy to be treated as fools. Good Politicians aren't about principles, they are about getting votes to save their butts each election.



Rain clouds ain't all bad Posted by Hello


Beach at Kujukuri bay Posted by Hello

Tennis at Maihama was cancelled yesterday due to unstable weather, but this morning dawned fine and sunny so my beach trip went ahead. The water was still pretty cold, but it was the first paddle I had in about a year so it was great! The rain clouds closed in shortly after lunch though, so we were heading back to Tokyo by about 2:00pm...



Workmate and girlfriend Posted by Hello

The week came to an end last night and I went out with my workmate Toru and his girlfriend. They are both soccer fans so they were going along to watch the Japan - Slovakia game. We watched the game at a French cuisine place called Torapon in Shibuya. I had to cheer for Slovakia as there were no Slovakians present in the place to even the balance. There was a group of 10 having a "gokon" noisily infront of the TV screen during the game, so we left as soon as the match finished. Japan took it out in the 2nd half with a 3-1 victory. The restaurant food was pretty good so I would go there again, but take care to avoid the night of the noisy "gokon"...

I'm working on Toru to get him to come along and watch one of the upcoming Bledisole Cup matches between the All Blacks and the Wallabies. They should be the best games of rugby this year I reckon.

Tonight I'm playing tennis at Makuhari in Chiba prefecture, and tommorow I might be off to the beach...



IWC 2004: South Pacific Whale Sanctuary

I will probably rave on and on about it over the next couple of weeks because the 56th annual IWC meeting is being held in Italy at the moment, but I see that Australia and New Zealand have re-put their proposal for a South Pacific Whale sanctuary to the IWC again (similar proposals have been rejected about four times already, but they keep on trying...).

1) The proposal bears little resemblance to science based conservation. The obvious glitch is that the proposed amendment to the IWC's schedule says: "This prohibition applies irrespective of the conservation status of baleen or toothed whale stocks in this Sanctuary as may from time to time be determined by the Commission." This basically means that no matter how abundant a given whale stock might be in these international waters, not even one whale would be able to be harvested for commercial purposes. If the proposal were based on science, it would probably read more like: "This prohibition applies to all whale stocks in this Sanctuary, except those that are determined by the Commission to be robust enough to sustain a commercial harvest". The objective of the Sanctuary should be to provide depleted whale stocks with the protection they need - but the fact that the proposal includes even whale stocks which are abundant indicates that something fishy is going on....

2) Furthermore, in practical terms the sanctuary is meaningless and has no practical value. This is because a global commercial whaling moratorium has been in place for the best part of two decades now. Declaring a South Pacific Whale sanctuary isn't going to change anything, as whales aren't permitted to be hunted for commercial purposes anywhere in the world anyway.

3) The proposal also rambles on about whale watching activities (which obviously have nothing to do with conservation efforts). Besides, a sanctuary is not required in order to run whale watching operations - all you need is a sustainable supply of whales. It seems that the sponsors of the sanctuary proposal are unaware that "whale stocks are susceptible of natural increases if whaling is properly regulated". And that is despite this very statement being in the preamble of the IWC's Convention. You'd think that before signing a Convention, you would read and accept what it says first, but for some reason New Zealand and Australian officials seem to have failed to do so. There will always be plenty of whales for whale watching so long as the whaling operations are sustainable. Sustainability will not be achieved through meaningless, blanket Sanctuaries, but better and more scientific research.

4) The proposal also notes that even despite the IWC's Scientific Committee (that is, the actual whale scientists) not supporting the imposition of sanctuaries in the past, the IWC (made up of politicians from various member nations) took the decision to put sanctuaries in place anyway. Who cares about science, the politicians say.

Conclusion This proposal, like the rejected proposals that went before it, is clearly not science based and isn't going to achieve anything - accept to maybe harpoon a few more "green" votes for the governments of Australia and New Zealand, and those other nations who decide to support it at the IWC.

That concludes my pre-IWC-meeting analysis of the South Pacific Whale sanctuary proposal. It rightfully should be rejected once again this year, but as the sponsors of the proposal themselves point out, the IWC doesn't pay much attention to science in these matters, so who knows!



Tokyo's Marunouchi area from the Imperial Palace's outer garden  Posted by Hello

Incidently, the Imperial Palace outer garden has the most massive expanse of lawn that I have seen in Japan. And what's more, you're even allowed to sit on most of it! The area closest to the Imperial Palace is all "no-go", but the expanse of park beside Marunouchi / Hibiya is free space. The grass is kept really well, and there are lots of trees to provide some shade. There have been hardly any people there the two times I have been. Not a bad spot for a picnic.


Nijubashi up close Posted by Hello

It's supposed to be the rainy season here in Japan right now, but apparently while I was away it didn't rain much, and it hasn't rained much since my return either. Japan Guide has been running a page introducing parks in Tokyo. The Imperial Palace is a fairly short walking distance from the Ginza area, so a friend and I spent a lazy afternoon in the park.

Nijubashi (meaning something like "double bridge") is apparently a famous site in Tokyo, where lots of middle aged tourists from around Japan come to have their photo taken by. There were some younger people too :-) Apparently at the end of WWII after the emperor announced Japan's surrender some of his loyal soldiers disembowled themselves here, but it is all nice and clean now.


Imperial Palace's Nijubashi bridge Posted by Hello

This is the money shot that everyone else takes. Some other guy who's site I just found has a better photo than my N900i was capable of. The light wasn't too good when I took mine in late afternoon though.


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