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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 2007: Day 2

[06:30 JST] The IWC has apparently approved the USA whaling quota, as well as the Russian whaling quota (by consensus).

I didn't listen to the proceedings, but obviously the big blow up that was reported by so many in the western media was totally off the mark.

After lunch, will the good faith showed by the supporters of sustainable use such as Denmark, Japan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Iceland, and Norway etc be reciprocated?

[07:25 JST] A brief discussion on the term "aboriginal". St. Kitts and Nevis notes that the term was not a name chosen by the whalers themselves, but imposed upon them, like collonialism. Like collonialism, St. Kitts and Nevis beleives the terms should go.

The US had problems with this.

The item remains open.

[07:30 JST] RMS / RMP issues now.

I should note that the IWC Scientific Committee report is now available.




IWC 2007: Day 1

[22:30 JST] IWC 59 is set to start a few hours from now at 3 AM JST, but if I feel able I will do a little "live blogging" as with last year, from sometime in the morning.

The proceedings can be viewed live thanks to the ICR's broadcast which can be accessed here.

Some media packages have come out - the High North Alliance's media kit is here, and the Japanese delegation's is here (both much the same as last year's). The IWMC haven't got anything on their homepage about the meeting yet, but another page to check once the meeting gets underway is the IWC homepage - I am assuming that some time on Day 1 the Secretariat will upload the Scientific Committee report, which should provide lots of talking points.

And with that, I leave comment section open. If you are watching the proceedings live, and something significant happens, by all means please drop in a comment so the rest of us can get up to speed when we come online!

See you all later...

[03:30 JST] Formalities underway now, with local representatives welcoming attendants to Alaska and urging participants to vote in favour of bowhead whale quotas for Alaskan people.

[03:40 JST] Coffee break until 11:10 or 04:10 JST.

[04:55 JST] Agenda has been adopted by consensus. Next is the Whale Stocks item 3.1 from the Scientific Committee chair

[05:00 JST] No agreed abundance estimates for Antarctic minke whales again this year, but they will look to hold an intersessional workshop to finalize abundance estimates.

[05:05 JST] Apparently further work has been identified in relation to the catch-at-age analyses (based upon commercial and JARPA catch data).

[05:10 JST] New Zealand speaking in a rather grumpy tone, supporting further work of the Scientific Committee in the abundance estimate work. Japan speaking next.

Japan notes that the biggest changes in estimates were in Area II and Area V, but changes in other areas were not statistically significant. Japan suggests focus on these areas. Japan noting that the Scientific Committee has not concluded that there has been a decline in real abundance (described by New Zealand as "catastrophic"). Japan suggesting caution is required in reporting the Scientific Committee's work.

Australia speaking now, ignoring Japan's comments, and sharing New Zealand's view. Australia is apparently to collaborate with Japan in a further study in 2008.

[05:20] SC Chair on common minke whale abundance in western North Pacific. Japan and Korea provided new studies in relation to stock structure. The committee hopes to make conclusions about the Sea of Japan minke stock structure at next year's meeting, then look to consider structure in stocks east of Japan.

On abundance, new work has been undertaken, and the committee will look to further this work. Additional surveys are planned this and next year by Japan and Korea. China and Korea also requested to collaborate on this work.

The US is worried about J-stock by-catch, and notes the reported under reporting of by-catch in Korea. US also concerned about the O-stock as well, hopes Russia will allow biopsy sampling in it's waters to help with these issues.

The UK shares the US's concern. UK hopes Korea will establish a DNA register to monitor their market.

Austria, Mexico speak.

Japan thanks Korea for organizing a recent minke whale workshop. Japan welcomes the progress made, and notes the substantial additional information provided by Japan in this area. Japan also thanks the Russian government for allowing the Japanese to conduct a sightings survey in their EEZ. Japan too would also like approval for biopsy sampling. Regarding by-catch, Japan collects DNA samples from by-caught animals. Japan notes fishing effort has been stable in recent times, but by-catch has been increasing.

Korea hoping to cooperate with North Korea and China on sightings surveys. Another Korean speaker, Mr An. on by-catch. Korea says that the paper on by-catch reported used a similar methodology to that of a paper in 2005, which had already been discussed. Korea regrets that the statistical accuracy of the paper was relatively high, and isn't happy with the way this paper has been used against them.

[05:35 JST] They are going to break for lunch now, and come back at 2 PM, or 7 AM JST.
(This may be all from me for today.)



Japanese media build-up for IWC 59

A handful of Japanese media shops are running stories on the IWC 59 meeting today.

Here's my quick translation of today's Tokyo Shinbun Editorial:

IWC meeting - Argue for science-based whaling


At the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) annual plenary in Anchorage, USA beginning on the 28th, the offensive from the anti-whaling nations who have increased through new recruits looks likely to intensify. Japan should calmly and persistently argue for a whaling resumption on scientific grounds.

Last years meeting in June was an epoch-making new for the nations arguing in favour of sustainable whaling. "The commercial whaling ban is no longer necessary. We must normalize the IWC, which has become dysfunctional", said a resolution adopted by a single vote. Taking this on board, this spring Japan held an IWC Normalization meeting in Tokyo.

However, the anti-whaling nations haven't taken this sitting down. In addition to holding their own meeting of mainly western nations, they also moved to acquire new recruits to the commission. So far Cyprus, Croatia, Slovenia, Ecuador, and Greece have all joined "under U.S. and European influence" (government source). Through their increase in number, the anti-whaling nations are poised to take control of the IWC meeting.

At this year's meeting, in addition to the approval of aboriginal subsistence whaling by people such as the Inuit, the anti-whaling nations will propose the creation of a new whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic. For it's part, Japan is set to put forward a request for a small-scale coastal whaling quota in the western North Pacific, in order to revive traditional whaling practices. Neither side has the 3/4's voting majority required for the proposals to be approved, so the result looks likely to be a stalemate.

The greatest reason for the continuing confrontation is the rigidness of the anti-whaling nations. In reflection of past over-exploitation, the IWC agreed to completely ban commercial whaling in 1982. Ten years later, the IWC's Scientific Committee established the Revised Management Procedure (RMP). This development showed that if the procedure were applied to minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean, the species would not be depleted through the annual catch of 2,000 minke whales for the next 100 years.

However, before this was implemented, the anti-whaling nations argued that an international observer system and other measures were required, and demanded the establishment of a Revised Management Scheme (RMS). Then with discussions in their final stages last year, they moved to stop the discussions themselves, saying that "the completion of the RMS would lead to a resumption of commercial whaling".

The anti-whaling nations, led by the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand have a policy of wild animal conservation. Once recoveries in these resources is recognized, there is no reason to deny discussions. The IWC was originally established in 1948 as an organization with the aim of conserving whale resources and making for their sustainable use. Japan should endeavour towards the normalization in co-operation with other nations such as Norway, Denmark, and Russia.

Regarding the operation of the meeting, Japan is aiming "avoid holding votes on every issue, but seek to secure mutual trust as much as possible amongst contracting governments". The direction of stressing discussions is correct. Japan should be persistent in arguing for sustainable whaling. Additionally, Japan should seek to receive co-operation from the US, Australia and others with regards to deterring extreme obstructive actions towards the research whaling fleet.

The Nikkei business daily also ran a brief story:
Japan to propose commercial whaling resumption - rough sailing in discussions at IWC meeting

The International Whaling Commission (IWC)'s annual meeting will open in Anchorage, USA from the 28th (29th, Japan time), running for 4 days. Japan will put forward a proposal asking for the resumption of commercial whaling on minke whales within Japan's coastal waters. At last years' meeting, a declaration saying that the pause in commercial whaling was not necessary was adopted by a single vote majority, but with the number of anti-whaling voices increasing once again this year, discussions on the resumption look likely to make little headway.

Japan has been putting whaling resumption proposals to the IWC for 20 years, since 1988. It is emphasizing the similarity of the proposal to those of the aboriginal whalers of places such as the USA, which even the anti-whaling nations recognise, by including provisions that the meat of the whales hunted be limited to local consumption.

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More pre IWC 59 meeting news

The media is now full of news on the IWC meeting, due to start just 6 or so hours from now.

One of the interesting issues will be Greenland and Japan's whaling quota proposals. The US bowhead quota is likely to be approved, if we are to go on reports in the media, but the Greenland hunt has been more controversial over the years, as they distribute their whale meat through those modern "supermarket" things. Japan, also being a modern nation, uses supermarkets as a distribution point for whale meat, but hasn't been able to have it's whaling classified as "aboriginal subsistence whaling" in the past, because of the commercial elements. So, it's been one rule for Greenland and one for Japan (there are commercial elements in the Alaska hunt as well, it seems), but the anti-whalers may choose to attack the Greenland quota this time, to take revenge on the Danes, who last year supported the St. Kitts and Nevis declaration, and made their sustainable use position very clear.

Reports suggest that Denmark will take a similar position this time around. Furthermore, while the Institute of Cetacean Research's planned inclusion of humpback whales in the JARPA II programme has made a lot of news, Greenland is also apparently going to request a small quota of humpbacks for their people as well. An interesting part of that story:
A group of North Atlantic MPs wrote recently to the Parliamentary Committee on Planning and Environment in the Danish Parliament that "we would rather catch the whales commercially, like we catch shrimps and halibut, than being reduced to cultural weirdos, who most gratefully are allowed to slaughter a couple of sacred cows...This would make our whaling a normal industry instead of an ethnic alm" they wrote.
Item 5.5 on the meeting agenda indicates that the appropriateness of the term "aboriginal" will come up for debate.

Meanwhile, Joji Morishita concisely summed up the argument for the recognition of Japan's coastal whaling:
"We expect the same treatment to be given to any proposal from Japan for a quota for our traditional coastal whaling communities, where the whales would be caught locally, processed locally, distributed locally and consumed locally"

"People need to ask themselves the question: does it matter whether a whale is hunted under the US's so-called Aboriginal Subsistence, or Iceland or Norway's commercial whaling or Japan's traditional coastal whaling?"

"Of course not. What is of the utmost importance is that the practice is sustainable. And it is"

-- Joji Morishita
Of course, how many of the IWC delegates see it that way is the big question for which we must await an answer.

More on this issue here.

Meanwhile, some in the New Zealand media are still not even on the same page:
Quotas that allow isolated tribes in Alaska and Greenland to hunt using traditional methods are up for renewal. New Zealand supports the quotas, however Japan has said it will veto them, unless the IWC allows wider coastal whaling.

-- New Zealand's Newstalk ZB/One News

Completely wrong information, as I noted a few days ago. Wake up guys - where are you getting your story?

From Australia, all sorts of stuff, but amongst it all is a call from Steven Freeland for compromise from the anti-whalers. Freeland gets some basic facts wrong (I'll not go into this), but despite that his basic push is in the right direction. Always good to see signs of common sense expressed in the Australian media.

Norway's delegate has had some typically frank words for the anti-whalers:

"Those of us who are in favour of very limited whaling are willing to reach a compromise and to give them probably the best (whaling) management scheme for any marine species at all, the most strictest one with the lowest quotas but this doesn't seem to be enough for them," Mr Klepsvik said.

"And accordingly, they seem to be happy by continuing to insist on zero quotas and insisting that the moratorium should be maintained."

Finally however, BBC correspondent Richard Black has an article on the situation covering the above aboriginal subsistence quota issues, but also commentary on the feeling at the meeting so far:
Preliminary exchanges here have been in a much more conciliatory spirit, with delegates on both sides talking of finding common ground.
Many environment groups are deeply unhappy about the message of compromise and conciliation, and about any notion that anti-whaling countries would settle for less than enforcing and enhancing the current global ban on all scientific and commercial whaling.
Black also has some details on the IWC's response to the Sea Shepherd organization's extremist tactics:

[Japan's delegation] will also seek a strong resolution against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society which disrupted Japan's 2006-7 Antarctic hunt, holing one of the Japanese vessels.

In the first concrete sign of a new rapprochement, Japan is working on a joint resolution with New Zealand, one of the fiercest critics of Tokyo's scientific whaling.

Nothing particular new in that - Resolution 2006-2 from last year's meeting concerning the safety of whaling and whale research vessels was also co-sponsored by Japan, New Zealand, the US, and maybe the Dutch and one other nation, as I recall.

Still the news of a perhaps less confrontational meeting from a reporter there at the scene is welcome news. The only ones who benefit from a controversial IWC meeting are those seeking to profit from the kafuffle.




Whale weekend

Just got back from a top Sunday...

Had a fabulous whale meat lunch at Shibuya's "Kujira-ya" with 5 Japanese friends from my favourite local bar (will add photos later maybe), then we headed off to Ebisu, where we took in the beer memorial hall (taking in 4 different beer samples), then headed off to Shinjuku and had a light meal in Omoide-yokocho, then to some kind of western pub type of joint for more drinks... then to our favourite bar for yet further alcohol... a long but pleasant afternoon/evening!

I also picked up a copy of NewsWeek, which apparently features a pretty westerny article on the whaling issue - I'm yet to read it in it's entirety, but that's what the train to work is for.

Anyway, the IWC plenary starts on the 28th in Anchorage, which works out to be the 29th Japan time, probably starting around 3am JST, so I doubt I will be watching the live broadcast from the very start, but I will open up a new post for "live blogging" tomorrow night before I hit the the futon - just in case I happen to be able to wake up in the early hours of the morning to take in some of the opening of the meeting. The "Future of the IWC" discussion from the Agenda could be interesting to watch first hand.

So, if you are also a whaling issue maniac, and living in an appropriate time zone, feel free to pop along tomorrow - you may find someone else here also enjoying the broadcast of the proceedings, as was the case last year.



"Consumption increasing, little by little"

More secret news about Japanese whale meat consumption. My translation of an article from the Yamaguchi edition of Asahi newspaper below...
Whale food culture and protecting the business / Shimonoseki

2007/3/28 - In a freezer, 25 degrees below zero. After a few minutes, rather than feel cold, one's skin begins to hurt. Cardboard boxes purchased from Kyodo Senpaku (Tokyo) which conducts research whaling are stacked up. Inside there is various whale meat, such as red meat, unesu (*1), and meat from the tail. In the case of red meat, boxes will be sold in sizes of 15 kilograms.

This is Maruko Inc, in Shimonoseki, a wholesaler that has dealt in whale meat since prior to the war (*2), and which continues today even after the dramatic decrease in the numbers of whales caught in 1987, with the cessation of commercial whaling and beginning of research whaling. The whale meat from the freezer is brought to a processing area where it is cut into slices, or salted, and then shipped nationwide in shapes such as sashimi, bacon, or obaike (*3)

Shimonoseki has been labelled as the birth place of commercial whaling. This stems from 1899, when a company established here introduced Norwegian whaling methods, and the town prospered as Japan's most prominent whaling base both before and after the war. Even now this food culture remains, with whale meat arranged in many supermarkets, retail stores, izakaya and other restaurants.

"What to do with the company? It was a huge problem."

Marukou President Takumi Furuta looks back on the time when research whaling began. With domestic whale meat production dropping to 1,000 tonnes from what had been an annual 25,000 tonnes in the 1980's before the end of [commercial] whaling, there was an extreme reduction in the amount of product coming into stock. The company somehow managed to get by using stocks purchased during the commercial whaling era. From the 1990's, Marukou kept things running by turning towards diversification, opening a whale meat restaurant under it's direct management.

20 years have past since the beginning of research whaling. Gradually catches have increased, and currently whale meat production is around 5,500 tonnes. The increase in supply has also seen whale meat prices change, for example red meat is now 2,000 yen per kilogram, or half that of the time when prices peaked. With supply and price difficulties, consumption of whale meat by the Japanese has tapered off compared with what it once was, but "Consumption is increasing, little by little," Furuta feels. "Whales are part of the character of Shimonoseki. First we hope for support from the local community", he says, expressing hope for consumption increases.

(Kyohei Kondo)

(*1) Unesu meat is that from between the lower jaw and belly of the whale. See the images at the very bottom of this page for a look.

(*2) That means WWII.

(*3) Obaike images at Google

* * *

Shimonoseki has been making Japan's top 7 whale meat stockpile locations in recent times.

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Wakayama article on IWC 59

To date there hasn't been a very noticeable amount of news in relation to the upcoming IWC meeting in the Japanese media as far as I have seen (only a very brief article from Jiji Tsushin), although a couple of reports from traditional whaling areas have appeared.

Below is my translation of one from a Wakayama news website which came out today.
International Whaling Commission - Annual Meeting in US from 28th

The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will be held from the 28th to 31st of May in the American state of Alaska, at Anchorage. From Wakayama, a group from the town of Taiji, known as the birth place of old style whaling in Japan, will be led by the town mayor, Kazutaka Sangen. Japan has declared a policy of "aiming for a resumption of commercial whaling", but at the present time member nations taking an anti-whaling stance outnumber those nations that agree with whaling, and Mayor Sangen believes that "the annual meeting is likely to be severe".

According to Taiji officials, also from Wakayama prefecture, 4 others besides Mayor Sangen will participate as part of Japan's delegation, including town council chairman Katsutoshi Mihara and the former prefectural head of education, Yoji Ozeki. It is Mayor Sangen's third IWC meeting. Ozeki's participation was requested, as "he has been assisting in the spread of whale meat school lunches, and in the inheritance of whale culture".

At last year's annual IWC meeting in June, the "St. Kitts and Nevis Declaration", which asserted that the temporary pause in commercial whaling (moratorium) that had been passed in 1982 was "no longer necessary", and supporting a resumption was adopted by a narrow margin with 33 votes in favour, 32 against, and one abstention. However, the declaration was not binding, and important decisions such as resuming commercial whaling require a 3/4's majority. Furthermore, since last year's meeting a progression of nations believed to be anti-whaling have joined the organization.

According to the Fisheries Agency, to 36 nations in favour of whaling, there are 40 nations against at the current time, and making for a resumption in commercial whaling is "as difficult as ever".

At this year's meeting, the Japanese delegation plans to request regulated minke whale catches for towns such as Taiji where small scale coastal whaling is conducted. Mayor Sangen says "This is an extremely important annual meeting for whaling regions. I'll be participating as a government committee member, so I'll do my best to appeal our case".

The IWC was established based upon the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which was promulgated in 1948. Japan joined the convention in 1951. According to the Fisheries Agency, there are a total of 76 member nations (as of the 23rd).
I've refreshed my browser to double check, but the IWC membership page still only lists 75 nations as of today, so that 76 figure is either a mistake or the IWC page hasn't been updated. Tanzania was also reported to be planning to join earlier in the year in a Japanese news report, although this hasn't eventuated as of yet. With neither side able to muster a 3/4's majority to impose their will on the remainder, the voting numbers aren't especially significant in real terms, and at least if we go on the Tokyo Normalization meeting recommendations, the pro-sustainable use nations will recommend avoiding divisive voting procedures.

Another of the Japanese media reports was from Ishinomaki. I don't have it on me right now, but as I recall, Mayor Kimio Doi will also apparently be attending the meeting.

It seems like seeking a coastal whaling quota is Japan's primary policy objective this year, but the wider issue of whether the IWC can ever be
normalized to fulfil it's clearly stated mandate is another focus from a medium-long term perspective. If it is still apparent after this meeting that it can't, then in my opinion it's time to get out.

* * *

UPDATE: Found the Ishinomaki article that I was talking about, for readers who are Japanese enabled. Like his Taiji counterpart, Mayor Doi looks to be hoping for the opportunity to express the importance of coastal whaling to the community of Ayukawa.

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IWC Future again

Here are some statements from Japanese officials in recent times:

Last year:
"These whole [IWC] meetings are a waste of time"

-- Joji Morishita
That's a pretty frank comment, but completely on the money. After a quarter of a century of endless shenanigans, it's now more than clear that a significant number of nations have no intention of ever acting in accordance with the ordinary meaning, or object and purpose of the ICRW, upon which the IWC is supposed to be based. The situation means that the IWC can not function as it was intended.

Further comments from Earlier this year -
This one in response to the "boycott" of the Tokyo Normalization meeting by the hard-core anti-whaling nations:
"It's really a shame if that occurs, and would make it very hard to see how the IWC proceeds from here on ... We're saying that we want to normalise, but if [the boycott] is true our opponents have chosen confrontation over conversation, and the meaning of the IWC is lost"

-- Hideki Moronuki
Following on from that:
"I think this is a final attempt on our side to save this organisation..."

"If this fails we need to think about other measures very seriously..."

"I cannot see any point to continue or to go back to the same structure or the same mindset as before the normalisation meeting..."

"Whatever is decided by the Anchorage meeting will probably trigger the next step"

"Something will happen this summer"

-- Joji Morishita

Bad faith

With many nations completely open in their intention of never accepting any form of commercial whaling ever again, irrespective of the scientific advice that the IWC Scientific Committee is capable of providing through the Revised Management Procedure and all the other issues used as a justification for their position, it's clear that the ICRW has not been adhered to in good faith.

This parting of views is not the result of a genuinely held difference of interpretation of the ICRW. Everyone knows exactly what the ICRW means, and exactly what it was intended for. Yet nations that do not support it's content remain signatory to it, and actively seek to recruit other mutineer governments to support their obstructive actions.

This has long been evident - consider this from the records of British parliament (*) in 1991:
It is clear that the Japanese, the Norwegians and the Icelanders are members of the International Whaling Commission so as to achieve an agreed international rule for resumed whaling of the minke and the fin whale stock. We are not fools. We know that that is the purpose. In a sense, that is what the constitution of the organisation says, so that is a legitimate expectation on their part.

Over the years Japan's newspapers have tended to produce what I would suggest are naive editorials, suggesting that remaining at the IWC negotiation table is in Japan's interest (see the Nikkei last year as one example). Maybe this is so, but only if something at the IWC changes. Anti-whaling NGO driven media coverage in the lead up to the meeting this year suggests that nothing will.

If we judge by the western media, it appears that the anti-whaling nations appear to have forgotten that they need to keep some carrots on the table, or the whaling nations may simply walk away and establish a new international body. Some have suggested that Japan is not unhappy with the current situation, with whaling still continuing under scientific permit. My impression is quite different. There are many in Japan appealing to the Government to set coastal whaling catch limits.

If Japan does walk away from the IWC (one would assume with the backing of a group of other nations) relations between Japan and the anti-whaling nations are still generally very good. Setting a small commercial catch quota would be met by yet another diplomatic outburst, but if the initial scale of a hunt is limited, and strictly regulated, there should only be limited side-effects.

If my memory serves me correctly, neither Iceland or Norway have ever had official trade sanctions leveled against them, making a potential trade war with the world's second largest economy of Japan even more unlikely to be seriously considered (especially just over the whaling issue). The world's most vociferous anti-whaling nations, Australia and New Zealand are heavily trade dependant on Japan, and stand to lose more than Japan in such a battle. Furthermore, Australia is currently trying to negotiate a free trade agreement with Japan. Meanwhile, the USA is currently trying to convince Japan to loosen it's restrictions on US beef imports (**).

In the west, there will always be a sector of society sympathetic to the fundraising campaigns of the anti-whaling groups. These groups will never fall silent, but they may be counterbalanced, if incentives are created.

Japan should have faith that the policy of allowing for utilization of abundant resources on a sustainable and regulated basis, while protecting depleted resources, is one that will find tolerance amongst the silent and unaffected, who I suspect are in the majority. This is particularly likely to be the case if it is in the western North Pacific where Japan starts to re-introduce commercial whaling. The JARPN II fleet, including a repaired Nisshin Maru left Japan weeks ago - it has hardly been mentioned in the western media or by the protest groups.

* * *

* This whole episode is interesting reading, if you feel like warping back 16 years in time - start on this page from "commercial whaling"

** I have wondered whether the Japanese government couldn't look to create political incentives for policy change in the west by linking whaling with issues such as these, where groups and individuals within nations like Australia stand to gain, balancing the fringe anti-whaling segment.

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IWC 59: Pre-plenary vilification

The usual pre-IWC plenary anti-whaling propaganda has been flying thick and fast through the western media, with various groups whose web pages bear "donate now" banners issuing a range of statements vilifying the IWC's pro-sustainable use nations, particularly Japan, despite of everything that has been said and done in recent times.

It's almost as if these groups are rooting for noisy confrontations, rather than subdued and dignified proceedings...

The IWC's Conservation Mandate

One NGO representative recently repeated a suggestion that the pro-sustainable use camp would seek to "strip the IWC of its conservation mandate" were they to have enough votes to do so (a simple majority).

The suggestion is presumably in reference to the IWC's "Conservation Committee", controversially established in 2003, and feared by sustainable use advocates as being another ruse by the anti-sustainable use camp to subvert the IWC from it's dual mandate to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry" (ICRW).

New Zealand Prime Minister Clark has been employing similar rhetoric, suggesting that New Zealand's ultra-protectionist position is "for conservation", and anything else is not.

Indeed, the pro-sustainable use camp are most certainly for conservation - they simply believe that conservation is not inconsistent with conservative levels of consumptive utilisation.

Joji Morishita has clearly stated Japan's stance on the IWC Conservation Committee matter previously:
"The conservation committee, if it works, is not bad for us, actually. And as we said at the time, if they can include both sustainable use and the protection, we have no problem."
It's also a matter of record (see the IWC 59 meeting's Annotated Agenda) that Japan won't propose the deletion of the Conservation Committee, or other agenda items which Japan believes to be inappropriate:
"Japan indicated that in keeping with its attempt to reduce conflict within the IWC and as part of its efforts to normalise the organisation, it will not propose the deletion of these or any other agenda item at the 59th Annual Meeting"

The "Aboriginal subsistence" quota issue

Previously in 2002, the pro-sustainable use lobby tried a tactic of illustrating the USA's double standards on whaling by opposing the renewal of the Alaskan people's bowhead whale quota.

This issue has a long history - even in 1982 when the IWC agreed to a commercial whaling moratorium, bowhead quotas were still granted at a time when the stock was estimated to number only between 3,390 and 4,325. After the imposition of the moratorium, the IWC Scientific Committee later in 1990 estimated the Antarctic minke whale population at around 760,000. Still, the IWC was not prepared to permit the taking of even a single Antarctic minke whale.

In 2002, the pro-sustainable use bloc ultimately didn't get any concessions out of the US, and at a subsequent special meeting, quotas were granted anyway.

Still, NGO representatives and politicians have suggested that Japan may once again try to "blackmail" the USA into supporting Japan's coastal whaling permit request.

Once again, Joji Morishita on the issue:
"As long as (the science supports the bowhead hunt), we will just say yes to their proposal."
What the remainder of the pro-sustainable use nations decide to do is up to them. However, with the Tokyo normalization meeting calling for attempts to reduce conflict, and the fact that exposing the USA's double standards didn't gain the pro-sustainable use camp much sympathy in 2002, they too may not be such a big issue. I'm picking the decision to come down to a simple matter of the IWC Scientific Committee's advice on the stock.

* * *

While they are busy trying to stir up donating attracting publicity, I wonder if the fund-raising industry hasn't taken their eyes off the ball - if they actually care about it at all...

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Chris Carter's selective memory

New Zealand "Conservation" Minister Chris Carter in action again. Apparently he...

... approached Japan's ambassador to New Zealand to ask that Japan drop the humpback hunt in return for the assistance New Zealand gave Japan after its whaling vessel Nisshin Maru was disabled by a fire off the northern Antarctic coast in February.

Wellington provided weather information and communications support to the Japanese whaling fleet, and a sick whaler was brought to New Zealand for hospital treatment.

"We are trying to persuade the Japanese to drop the humpbacks as a gesture of goodwill," Carter told National Radio

Chris seems to have forgotten commissioning the New Zealand Air Force to collect propaganda footage for him. The Japanese obviously weren't impressed, as it led to Sea Shepherd putting out a monetary bounty for the fleet co-ordinate information, and the stunt subsequently saw him mocked by even the domestic New Zealand media for his poor diplomatic skills.

This silly remark indicates no signs of improvement.

Japan is entitled to permit the ICR to lethally sample 50 humpbacks (or indeed, as many as they determine fit under their programme).

If Carter seriously wishes to see Japan refrain from exercising it's rights in accordance with the terms of international agreements, it needs to offer Japan a real concession in return, not play these silly games in the media.




IWC Future

If this year's IWC meeting is once again another like those of the past quarter of a century or more (as seems likely to be the case), the IWC could be in for a shake-up.

My views on that later in the week.


Election year in Australia

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been enjoying reading coverage of the war of words within Australia about how to deal with the whaling issue.

The ALP has apparently suggested taking a hard line approach involving navy vessels and possible vessel boardings (an election year suck up to the gullible), and Malcolm Turnbull has responded by pointing out the various problems with such actions. The Australian Greens seem to be backing the ALP as well, but I guess they are irrelevant anyway.

I feel sorry for any incumbent Australian minister of the environment. Rather than try and find a good way to uphold a bad policy, I'm sure they wish they had the option of just throwing the policy away for a good one, i.e., tolerate whaling to the extent that it is sustainable. No political incentive exists to take this route though, it seems.

At any rate, it's great to see anti-whaling Australia so divided on the issue. I look forward to the New Zealand elections in 2008 as well, as no doubt there will be politicians there who also wish to attract the "lunatic" vote.




Whale meat stockpile update - March 2007

March's marine product stockpile figures from the Ministry were released Friday (Japanese PDF format, Excel format). As always, the details for whale meat are below...

March 2007 outgoing stock: 730 tonnes

This figure is roughly equivalent to the recent 12 month moving average. Back in 2004 and 2005 anything above 700 tonnes of outgoing stock in a month was a large one. Versus March 2006, this figure is 89%.

On an annualized basis, this rate would see 8,760 tonnes of meat leave stockpiles in a year. Incoming stock in 2006 was 8,950 tonnes, although 2007 is likely to see less supply than that.

March 2007 incoming stock: 2,159 tonnes

The majority of this 2,159 tonnes of meat will have been the by-product of the JARPA II programme, with the ships returning early to Japan at the end of March. This figure is 41% higher than in the same month last year, but this should probably represent all of the by-product from JARPA II. Last year the by-product appeared to be reflected in the stockpile figures in both March and April.

The main difference in supply between 2007 and 2006 will be the lower supply from JARPA II

I've not had time to look at possible incoming stock volume through by-catch, as I mentioned last month.

March 2007 overall stockpile movement: Up 1,429 to 4,590

A big jump in the stockpile size here by 45% on the previous month - the JARPA II by-product is in. Depending on the amount of by-product from the Western North Pacific JARPN II programme, and consumption rates, this month may turn out to be the peak stockpile level in 2007.
This figure is 28% higher than at the same time in 2006, but as I mentioned above, there isn't likely to be any huge amount of incoming stock in April, as there was in 2006.

Graph: Annual volumes

Outgoing stock for the first 3 months of 2007 is 29% higher than in the first 3 months of 2006, and incoming stock was 58% higher than in the first 3 months of 2006. When April's figures come out, the outgoing stock figure is likely to remain higher than at the same time last year, but the incoming figure should come out much less due to the lower supply of JARPA II by-product.

Graph: Monthly stockpile movements

As noted above, the end of March is likely to represent a peak in stockpile size this year. The end of April was peak month in 2006, but 2005, which 2007 is more likely to resemble in terms of supply, saw stockpile sizes peak during summer.

Graph: 12-month moving averages:

The outgoing stock 12-month moving average is likely to level out going forward, and the incoming figure will also come down sharply next month.

Graph: Cumulative volume:

This graph takes a break this month! It shows the same thing as the previous graph anyway, so I might stop making it.

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles:
A summary of the top 7 stockpile location movements:

1. Tokyo wards: 707 tonnes -> 2,336 tonnes
2. Ishinomaki: 490 tonnes -> 525 tonnes
3. Hakodate: 518 tonnes -> 466 tonnes
4. Kushiro: 374 tonnes -> 289 tonnes

5. Osaka: 256 tonnes -> 261 tonnes
6. Kanazawa: 267 tonnes -> 232 tonnes
7. Shimonoseki: 116 tonnes -> 117

According to the stats released, 292 tonnes of meat entered "production area" regions, while 1,867 tonnes entered stockpiles in "consumption area" regions. Presumably the Tokyo wards stockpile was where the JARPA II by-product was stored.

* * *

April figures will be released on June 12.




Southern Hemisphere Humpback numbers above 50,000

Following on from the previous post in relation to the IUCN extinction risk downgrade for the Humpback (and minke) whale species, here's some more positive information from another paper submitted to the IWC Scientific Committee by Trevor Branch:
Austral summer estimates of abundance are obtained for humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Southern Ocean from the IWC's IDCR and SOWER circumpolar programmes. These surveys have encircled the Antarctic three times: 1978/79­1983/84 (CPI), 1985/86­1990/91 (CPII) and 1991/92­2003/04 (CPIII), criss-crossing strata totalling respectively 64.3%, 79.5% and 99.7% of the open-ocean area south of 60°S. Humpback whales were absent from the Ross Sea, but were sighted in all other regions, and in particularly high densities around the Antarctic Peninsula, in Management Area IV and north of the Ross Sea. Abundance estimates are presented for each CP, for Management Areas, and for assumed summer feeding regions of each breeding stock. Abundance estimates are negatively biased because some whales on the trackline are missed and because some humpback whales are outside the survey region. Circumpolar estimates with approximate midpoints of 1980/81, 1987/88 and 1997/98 are 7,100 (CV=0.36), 10,200 (CV=0.30) and 41,500 (CV=0.11). When these are adjusted simply for unsurveyed northern areas, the estimated annual rate of increase is 9.6% (95% CI 5.8­13.4%), near the maximum possible for humpback whales. All breeding stocks are estimated to be increasing but increase rates are significantly greater than zero only for breeding stocks D and E. If the rate of increase is >5%, total abundance in the Southern Hemisphere is greater than 50,000 and is similar to the summed northern breeding ground estimates (~53,000 from 1999­-2005). Some breeding ground abundance estimates are far greater, and others far lower, than the corresponding IDCR/SOWER estimates, in a pattern apparently related to the latitudinal position of the Antarctic Polar Front.
And again in the "Total Southern Hemisphere abundance" of the "Discussion" section of the paper on page 9, Branch concludes that "...it is fairly safe to conclude that there are more than 50,000 humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere."

Here's a reproduction of "Figure 1" from this document, which indicates humpback sightings around Antarctica:
It should make for interesting comparison with the corresponding figure from Branch's other paper on increasing Blue whale abundance.

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Japanese media reports IUCN Humpback whale extinction risk downgrade

Y/H-san drew my attention to a Japanese article that appeared in the Yomiuri newspaper in relation to the IUCN Red List and the revised whale species classifications that are due to be published in the updated list (sometime) later this year. The High North Alliance was first on the net with this news, much earlier this year. But here's my translation of the Japanese article from the 27th of April:
Humpback and Minke, removed from "Endangered" list - New impetus for whaling resumption

It has been learnt that the IUCN, after confirming increases in the number of Humpback and Minke whales which had been threatened with extinction, has moved to down list these two species to a lower rank of extinction risk.

The downgrade is expected to be published shortly in the "Red List", which classifies animal species by different levels of extinction risk. Coming on the eve of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Anchorage USA, the controversy surrounding the resumption of commercial whaling for these two species is likely to be heightened.

According to the Red List, the Humpback was "Endangered (Threatened)", and the Minke whale species, while not meeting the criteria of a Threatened species, had been classified in the "Near Threatened" category, requiring caution, due to a notable decreasing trend in their numbers.

The IUCN, in progressing their re-evaluation of the rankings for the world's mammal species, held a meeting of specialists in January this year, and confirmed that they would downgrade the Humpback and Minke whale species to "Least Concern", a ranking indicating a low risk of extinction, based on scientific data such as that provided by the research whaling conducted by Japan.

The research whaling is currently conducted with respect to Minke whales, and from this autumn will commence for Humpback whales. This downgrade will potentially provide the nations who are aiming for a resumption in commercial whaling
, such as Japan, with a powerful reinforcement. Yoshio Kaneko of Iwate Prefectural University's Faculty of Policy Studies commented that "This is the result of an objective judgement of the status of whale abundance. With respect to these two species, anti-whaling advocates will lose any grounds they had to say that these whales are facing extinction".

(2007/4/27/ 3:10 Yomiuri Shinbun)
In real terms, the recovery of the humpback whale after more than 40 years of protection (i.e. since the 1960's - two decades before the unnecessary commercial whaling moratorium was rammed into effect) is great news.

But this report being published is also great news as well. Today many publications seem to prefer scandal and drama over gradually unravelling success stories, but the IUCN Red List downgrade of the humpback provides a nice conservation milestone for the media to pick up and run with...

... well, the Japanese media at least. You see, meanwhile, the "environmental editor" of a major British newspaper has today published an article referring to "50 endangered humpbacks".

I predict that this sort of reporting (either ignorant or intellectually dishonest) will continue even after the official Red List publication.

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Humpback whale caught in fixed net

In late March, the Yomiuri Newspaper online edition had a story back from central Japan about a rare occurrence - a humpback whale entanglement in a fixed net. Here's the photo from the article and my translation below:

Whale caught in fixed net! Landed in Mie - fetches 3.6 million yen at auction

Early on the morning of the 23rd, a fishing boat belonging to the Miyama fishery cooperative discovered a Humpback whale (9.65 metres in length, weighing 9.8 tonnes) caught in a fixed net in the Kumanonada area about 2 kilometres from the coast of Mie prefecture's Kihoku town. The whale was brought to the town's Hikimoto port, and sold at auction. A dealer from Wakayama prefecture bought the whale for 3.6 million yen.

According to the Mie prefecture Agriculture and Fisheries commerce and industry department, with the exception of some rare species, it is possible to dispose of whales caught in fixed nets via the market, and Association Chief Satoshi commented that "the whale appeared likely to die, so we landed it after discussions with the Japanese Whaling Association".

The rare event at one point saw more than 100 people gather at the port to see the sight (=photo=). Local resident Toyoko Nakamura (71) was one of those surprised at the event. "I've been living in this town for almost 50 years, but this is the first time I've ever seen a whale landed here".

Yotsuo Asano of the Toba Aquarium said "In winter, whales breed in the ocean to the south, and head north from December to May. During the migration they sometimes get stuck in nets."

(2007 / 3 / 24 - Yomiuri Shinbun)

The ICR maintains a "stranding record" of cetaceans that strand, wash ashore, or are otherwise caught in fixed nets and so forth. This is important information to have from a conservation and resource management perspective, as information on human induced whale mortality is needed for efficient implementation of the IWC's Revised Management Procedure.

I don't have a summary of these figures, but from previous glances at this record, when large whales are caught in fixed nets they tend (95% of the time) to be minke whales. There are other occurrences of humpbacks, but not many.

Incidently, the price of 3.6 million yen for the whale seems like a pretty good deal. Optimistically there might be 5 tonnes of meat on the whale, which would mean selling on at a price of 720 yen per kilogram just to nearly break even. Regular wholesale prices are just under 2000 yen.

* * *

This Japanese site has some pictures of different types of fixed nets.

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