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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



Greens on Whales and Whaling

You can always tell when an International Whaling Commission meeting is not far off.

The politicians start grandstanding, and the "environmental protection" groups like Greenpeace and IFAW start asking you to give them your money again.

So far, the NZ Greens party has come out with typical baseless claims and complaints about Japanese whaling. (You can stand by for the propaganda from Greenpeace and IFAW - their anti-whaling campaigns are like christmas to them - best time of year to make m$ney. I'll post an "I told you so" when it happens)

This time Sue Kedley / Keith Locke have said that the humpback whales are "ours", presumably meaning that they think they belong to New Zealand. This claim has no substance whatsoever, and the only purpose it serves is to churn up resentment amongst the ignorant people whom might possibly give their vote to the Greens. But then, Sue and Keith are politicians, and "Green" ones at that.

Anyways, where Sue and Keith are (totally) wrong is that the humpback whales, like all other great whale species, come under the provisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). As such, the whales are can only be considered to be the "possession" of the whole international community. It surprises me somewhat that the Greens even want to stake a claim of ownership. The reality is that whales are free in the ocean - they do not belong to any group of humans. And isn't this the way it should be?

But, what the ICRW represents is an agreement amongst nations with an interest in whale resources about how they can be sustainably managed and utilised. To claim that the whales are "ours" is fundamentally wrong and will not assist in contributing towards a rational debate about whaling. Decisions must be made at the IWC meetings with other concerned partners.

As I have said previously, if New Zealand's politicians were truely upset with the ICRW, they would withdraw via the process defined in Article XI. It seems by claiming that the whales are "ours", the Greens would be quite happy to bypass the IWC and just do as they please, so someone should suggest this to them.

Also, the Greens claim that New Zealanders find killing animals and putting the meat into the market "repugnant". Oh hang on, they said "whales" explicilty... I'm proof that their claim is wrong, but for those New Zealanders who it is true, they have to ask themselves why it is "repugnant" where whales are involved, but not when every other living creature that we put on our own dinner plates is the target matter.

Of course, I would hope that I'm preaching to the converted. Anyone out there who agrees with the Greens on anything should rethink things, because there are very few issues on which the Greens make sense. And it's clear to me at least that this isn't one of them :-)

A Japanese resident also got a mention. He's right that Japanese culture must be determined by the Japanese themselves, and good on him for starting a petition to try to drive change. Not that I agree with him - it seems that he's happy to give whale meat up because he finds it "not soft" and "not tasty at all". For the record the whale steak I had once tasted just like beef, but it is selfish of him to try to deprive those who DO wish to eat whale meat of this, just because he doesn't want to eat whale meat himself. He ought to remember that it is not just Japanese people who eat whales, but also various other peoples around the world - including some for whom whale meat is still the main staple. Like the Americans for example (in northern Alaska that is :-))

Finally, the only useful fact in the article was the embassy spokespersons statement affirming that the Japanese programme is "perfectly legal under Article 8 of the ICRW". To give some background, the research programs carried out under this provision have to be proposed to the Scientific Committee of the IWC. Only after receiving an approval for the research can it proceed. The Scientific Committee is more a forum for actual science than the IWC itself, which is made up of politicians and interest groups, so the proposal will probably receive feedback and recommendations for improvement, but don't be surprised if it is largely approved.

What I guess the Greens are really trying to make people think is that if the Japanese start taking Humpback whales as well, then Humpback whales will disappear from New Zealand coastlines. This couldn't be further from reality. The Greens simply have no concept of sustainable resource utilisation - research whaling involves taking a tiny sample of the whale population for biological research, which helps humans understand these whale stocks better, thus improving our chances of wisely managing them.

More simply put, if you want to sustainably manage whales, you need to know how many you can take from the stock without depleting it over time. The idea is the same for cows. You have a stock, you kill some each year and eat them. So long as the number you kill is less than or at worst equal to the natural rate of increase, you're golden. And the scientific committee won't approve the Japanese research proposals unless it is certain that it wouldn't see an overall reduction in the numbers of whales. So if you like harrassing whales in your boats, th... eerr.... I mean, if you like "whale watching" off the New Zealand coastline, you won't be seeing any fewer Humpbacks even if the Japanese proposal is accepted.



Response to christoph on whaling

I posted my thoughts on "Whaling as politics" over here at Rodney Hide's blog .
I received a response, and below is my reply.

"I see your email is @tokyo, David. Does this mean that you live in Japan, and are you involved in the whaling industry? Doesn’t the meat from the whales that were killed for research end up on the fish market? And what research is so important that we need to kill whales to do it? And why do you think the countries that continue to kill whales are so out of step with the rest of the world?"

Hi cristoph, thanks for your interest.

1) Yes, I live in Tokyo. One of my two degrees is in Japanese. I've been exposed to this foreign culture since primary school, so I have a very open and flexible mind.

2) No, I don't have any relation with the Japanese whaling industry at all. You'll make my mum and dad laugh :-) I am a software engineer in a totally unrelated industry.

3) Yes, meat from the whales that were killed for research does end up on the "fish" market. Two main reasons why:
-- There is a market for whale meat in Japan (I've had some too... a steak once - tasted like beef, and some more in a piece of sushi another time - not really my bag though, I prefer shrimp) It's a pretty small market though. Most Japanese people don't have any special urge to go out and eat whale meat every day. In recent times, they are coming to prefer more healthy and civilised foods such as McDonalds.
-- The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which I mentioned earlier, expressly states this REQUIREMENT. Yes, it is REQUIRED by the Convention, to which NEW ZEALAND remains a signatory, that proceeds of whaling research be disposed of in a responsible manner, rather than say, just dumping the carcasses back in the sea, as the New Zealand whalers used to do in the good old days.
Here is the Convention text - this REQUIREMENT is stated in Article VIII.
Also, you can find the reason that this requirement (added at the request of the USA) exists in the convention here.

But again note that New Zealand complains about this research whaling all the time - while we have our signature on the very document that makes it legal, giving it further legitimacy.

4) I could explain why research is necessary, but this post would get even longer... so instead I will just point it out that the Convention says "the Contracting Governments will take all practicable measures to obtain such data" (again in Article VIII), and once again remind you that NEW ZEALAND is a SIGNATORY to this document.

My point here is simply that WHALING IS POLITICS TOO, and most New Zealanders probably have no clue just how contradictory the New Zealand government's stance is. The whaling nations don't give a rats about New Zealand and our anti-whaling mates. They can see us turn up to Whaling meetings every year, maintaining our signature on the Convention, while totally contradicting our position with our words and actions. New Zealand politicians need to grow up and stop making an utter fool of us in the international community. In the meantime, back home in New Zealand, the politician is looked upon favourably by a few "greenies". And of course the politicians get expensive tax payer funded trips overseas. Everyone in New Zealand is a winner!

5) You'll have to define "rest of the world" for me there. When western governments such as those in New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the UK say "world", what they really mean "us and some of our colonies". But that doesn't sound as good as "rest of the world".

Apparently the pro-sustainable resource utilization camp (whalers) are supposed to be greatly outnumbered (in the world). Yet every year Greenpeace and IFAW and the Media tells us that it's time to donate, to keep the filthy dirty whalers from being able to overturn the commercial whaling moratorium. The whalers need a 75% majority before they can achieve that. And since "the rest of the world" is apparently against it, it's not likely to happen right? Right. But that has never stopped Greenpeace / IFAW and the politicians from kicking up a fuss each year - because they want your votes and your financial donations.

Interesting fact to close it out:
The value of donations received by US Greenpeace each year is larger than the value of the whale meat market in Japan. How about that!



Another cool thing: command line editing

I half discovered this while taping away on my Solaris machine at work yesterday: Command Line Editing.

Mistyping a really long command can be a pain in the butt especially if you make a mistake along the way. Until now I have always been copying the correct part of the string, pasting, adding correct characters, and copying and pasting the remaining correct part of the string. This works, but involves reaching for the mouse. No more! I finally found out how to "edit the command line".

By default, bash uses commands to edit, like f to go forward a character, b to go back a character, a and e to go the start and end of the command respectively. I use the vi(m) editor, so I didn't realise that these commands were actually emacs style cursor movement commands. But no problem, I can apparently set bash to use vi style editing instead:
$ set -o vi
Another command which I will have to explore is
$ bind -v

set editing-mode vi

This command seems to dump information about a whole load of other goodies, which I will have to check out. The only one I understand so far is the one above, indicating that I have set my command line editing mode to vi style...


CVS: FInding out what files changed

In my adventures with Enlightenment I find myself wanting to look at what changes the development team have made to the source since I last bult the software. If anything interesting changed, then I want to rebuild and check it out.
At first I was trying to use
$ cvs diff -u
but it didn't seem to be giving me the right output. So instead I have been using :
$ cvs update -dP
which gives some useful output while it updates my working copy. But I just I found this command:
$ cvs -n -q update
The -n option makes no actual changes, resulting in exactly the output I need. Noting here so that I don't forget!



Big Weekend

This is the first true weekend of spring here in Tokyo. It's not cold anymore, and the Cherry Blossoms are on the way. I got a postcard from Matsudo Tennis Club letting me know that the new season has started, so I'll give them a call shortly to let them know that I want to resume my attendance. Like I was ever going to play tennis over the winter here... Gonna go for another job at midday to try to regain some fitness.


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