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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



Iceland whale meat and tourism status update

A few months ago back in October 2006, Iceland resumed commercial whaling, with commercial whalers taking 7 fin whales from the 9 whale quota granted by the government.

Nothing much seems to have changed, but here's an update on where they are at:
Kristjan Loftsson, manager of whaling firm Hvalur, said ... firms must first test the meat for dangerous chemicals to see if it meets food industry standards.

"We have not sold any meat. First we must analyse the meat. When that's done, then there will be no problems," he said.


Loftsson expects a decision on when Hvalur will start marketing the meat abroad by the end of January, but said the analysis of the meat has taken longer than expected.

"We must prepare and carry out testing carefully. We have never done this before and we have to do an extremely good job," Loftsson said.

Gudfinnsson said there were no laws or regulations in Japan, where Icelandic whaling firms plan to sell most of their catch, to prevent the import of whale meat.

Based on the Japanese articles I have seen, I agree that a supply of 100 tonnes of fin whale meat should easily have a market found for it. Loftsson is absolutely right in taking the time to run the tests pollutants. One point that I haven't seen covered anywhere yet is the process of registering the DNA of each whale with the ICR. Currently all meat sourced from Japan's research programmes is logged on the DNA register, and fishermen wishing to market products based on by-caught whales may also do so on the condition that they provide the authorities with a DNA sample from the whale.

There have been many anecdotes in the media about the negative effect of the whaling decision on tourism, with reports of bookings being cancelled and so forth.

This article provides a different perspective:
... according to the latest statistics, Iceland's tourism industry stayed strong into the end of 2006.

Keflavik Airport saw an 11 percent rise in passenger traffic in 2006, while stays in Icelandic hotels were up by 11 percent in the first 11 months of 2006.
The article unfortunately doesn't provide any monthly figures to substantiate the statement, but based on past history, I am expecting that the impact on tourism from the decision will indeed be limited, ultimately. Iceland resumed whaling in a scientific form in 2003, as opposed to the commercial form of the latest hunt, and the reality is that people who oppose whaling will generally oppose it in any form. Many people who opposed Iceland's scientific permits were also likely under the impression that the research was "commercial whaling in disguise", anyway.

Ironically, an article from The Times that tried to push the argument that whaling would hurt tourism, actually provided a graph indicating that whale-watching tourist numbers to Iceland increased from around 60,000 in 2002 to around 80,000 in 2004/2005 and 90,000 in 2006, indicating the limited impact scientific whaling had on tourism.

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Proof once again - as if it were needed - that the whole whaling "controversy" exists as a construct of old media to move product and for fisheries Ministers to assuage their guilt over permitting the unsustainable consumption of truly endangered species for their high street supermarkets.
The big difference between now and when the animal protest industry used hype and misinformation to push through regressive legislation and listings such as the EU ban on sustainable seal products, the african ivory ban and the whaling moratorium is the internet.
Now we have a dialog and the whaling "debate" is essentially over and won.
Lies, distortions and misinformation can't deal with a two way communications medium. The campaigns are still stuck in the same mode when TV producers would take Greenpeace video and air it as given to them with no oversight. Today when the British or Australian press dress up an animal protest pamphlet as a "report" people notice and tell others.
The whaling debate among others just shows the increasing irrelevance of mainstream media in the internet age.
Here's to communication and understanding...and the end of manufactured conflict.
The Internet is great, isn't it :-)
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