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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



More videos from Choujin Tairiku

Chojin Tairiku has released another series of videos featuring people in the know about the results of IWC 59 from Japan's perspective. The videos are all in Japanese of course.

IWC 59 wasn't evaluated entirely pessimistically, with happiness expressed that the IWC was able to adopt the resolution criticising Sea Shepherd by consensus. This is presumably what led the Netherlands to strike the Sea Shepherd vessels off their register (although I'm still to see an explicit confirmation of this).

Still, the speakers were basically unhappy with the results (although this wasn't unexpected).

There was no great enthusiasm expressed for actually withdrawing from the IWC (Japan still hopes to see the IWC "normalized", but none of the speakers expressed optimism for the future).

Nonetheless Joji Morishita stated in relation to Japan's approach to the IWC, words that I would translate as "make no mistake that IWC 59 will mark a turning point".

The question for the strategists is how best to achieve something positive for the principle of sustainable use without abandoning the IWC altogether. This shouldn't be impossible - Iceland and Norway are both whaling commercially already, after all. There were no IWC resolutions forced through in relation to the commercial whaling hunts of either of those two nations.

If Japanese commercial whaling of species under the IWC's jurisdiction does begin in the near future, my guess is that it will come first with minke whaling within Japan's EEZ, and second in relation to the Western North Pacific Bryde's whale, for which the IWC Scientific Committee recently completed it's RMP implementation work.

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Update on Iceland whaling

An update on the situation with attempts to restart the commercial whaling business in Iceland. First a summary of events since late last year:

Initially it was reported that
... the tests were to be conducted at "independent laboratories in Europe" and "would likely take a few months."
It turned out to take longer, but Loftsson remained confident of lining up a buyer:
"We have not sold any meat. First we must analyse the meat. When that's done, then there will be no problems" ...
The story came up again in April:
Kristjan Loftsson, Hvalur's managing director, is waiting for the results of a months-long analysis of the fin whale meat his firm put on ice last fall. Once that is complete, he says he will have no trouble selling to buyers lined up in Japan.

He is also waiting for new, and hopefully higher, quotas from the government since the 2006 take was too small to offset the cost of setting up operations mothballed since 1989.


"It's good money," Loftsson said of whaling, declining to offer specifics. "If you can catch a proper amount of whales."


Loftsson said although he has buyers lined up, he has not signed any contracts and declined to name them or to say how much the meat would fetch.

... Loftsson said the analysis has taken much longer than expected.

"I didn't realise how laborious it is. They want PCBs, mercury and all sorts of analysis. You have to document the results and this is about close to 5,000 figures," he said.

"With all these food scares today, this is just (what) the (buyers) demand."

Once again another story from a few days ago:
Gunnar Berg Jonsson, from the Association of Minke Whale Hunters: "We expect to start hunting whales commercially from the beginning of July, although it is not clear whether the whole quota will be used. If a quota for the following fishing year is given out, we will continue catching minke whales until well into October,"
Regarding the tests:
This was supposed to take only two to three months, but not all of the results have come back.

"A buyer for the meat is available, once all the results are back," said Kristjan Loftsson from the Hvalur whaling company which hunts fin whales.
With a buyer apparently lined up now, whether the trade takes place or not seems to be solely dependent upon the test results (and politics too probably).

A few days ago, an Internet forum received a comment from a poster in Iceland who wrote that
"in the news yesterday here in Iceland ... he [Loftsson? Jonsson?] said that ... he was sure that the fin whale meat would be in japan by the end of summer"
So perhaps we'll be able to judge the veracity of this report by September.

* * *

Another aspect to the issue for Iceland is the effect on Iceland's national interests. Apparently tourism hasn't suffered:
... 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.

This was confirmed again in the June article:
Many people in the tourist industry, including travel companies abroad, felt that there would be a drop in the number of tourists coming to Iceland as would-be travellers could be put off by Iceland's whaling activities.

Discover the World (DTW) was one such company. They placed a statement on their website saying that they disagreed with Iceland's decision to restart commercial whaling.

"However, we have made it clear that the Icelandic travel industry is also very much against whaling and that they are the main force against whaling in Iceland. Therefore by supporting the travel industry you are not supporting whaling. We have found that this view has been widely accepted and that accordingly people are generally booking holidays there without any problem," said Clive Stacey, managing director of DTW, when asked about the issue.

In fact, there has been an increase in the number of tourists coming to Iceland this year, as has also been the case for the last few years. But this should not be surprising, as flights are now available from far more places than before, and at cheaper prices too.

* * *

Iceland's Marine Research Institute also reports that
Based on these assessments it is clear that annual catches of 200–400 minke whales are in accordance with the objective of sustainable utilization of the minke whale stock, as it is widely recognized that the population level giving maximum sustainable yield lies within the bounds of 60–72% of the preexploitation level. The Marine Research Institute therefore recommends that annual catches of common minke whales do not exceed 400 animals and further that catches will be distributed in accordance with minke whale distribution in the continental shelf area.
The Scientific Committee further concluded that annual catches of 150 fin whales for the next 20 years on the traditional whaling grounds west of Iceland would be sustainable. If catches were spread more widely, annual catches of 200 fin whales are sustainable.

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Ferry company monitors whale migration to prevent accidents

Here's a story (original Japanese) from western Japan related to the increasing numbers of whale / high speed ferry collisions in recent times:
Collecting and analyzing whale sighting data effective in avoiding collisions - JR Kyushu Jet Ferry

As it grows warmer, the whales in Tsushima strait head from the coast of Tsushima north to the coast of the Korean peninsula --- This was the finding of JR Kyushu Jet Ferry (Fukuoka), the operator of the "Beetle", a high speed ferry that connects Hakata and Pusan, after analyzing sighting data collected by crew members following a series of collisions with marine wildlife. When the Korean side of the joint operation experienced a collision in April, it was the first time such an accident had led to a [human] fatality, but making use of the data, the Beetle has paid special attention to sea areas where whales are most commonly seen, and have had no accidents this year. Specialists have welcomed this as an "effective means of accident prevention".

After increasing reports from crew members of whale sightings from March 2005, the company started to gather sighting location data from later that year in May, and by May 2007 had recorded 211 sightings.

According to the data, whales are found mainly off the coast of Tsushima in January to March, and gradually move north from April. Between May and June most sightings were made between the Korean peninsula and Tsushima. In July and August, there were fewer sightings across the entire sea region, then from September sightings start to occur once again off the Tsushima coast.

Last year in February and March, the Beetle had had four collisions with marine life thought to be whales, and reduced it's boat speed from the usual 42 knots (78 kmph) to 36 knots (approximately 67 kmph). The ferry crossing, which originally took 2 hours and 55 minutes saw arrivals run late by approximately 20 minutes due to the speed reductions.

Having collected data and gained an understanding of the seasons and sea regions where whales are frequently encountered, the ferry has from this year limited it's speed reductions to certain segments of the journey. From April the speed limitation has been further limited to coastal seas of the Korean peninsula, and the delayed arrival times have been reduced to less than 10 minutes. There were 37 whale sightings through May this year, but no cases of collisions.

The head of the operation department, Takio Yamamoto says "Human eyes are our final resort. We hope to keep on our toes and maintain a perfect record".
When the story of the passenger death broke in April some western media facing news articles reported that some people blame the commercial whaling moratorium for the increasing numbers of accidents.

It's true that if whalers were there thinning out whale numbers, the probability of these accidents occurring would be reduced, but the chance of a collision still exists so passengers will be happy that JR Kyushu have been making this effort.

Nonetheless, running at (an albeit reduced speed of) 36 knots through areas of possible high whale density is still pretty swift.




Sea Shepherd without a flag (again)

Having been stripped of it's ship registrations in Canada, Belize, the UK, and presumably the Netherlands as well (don't know why it took them so long), Sea Shepherd have now reportedly resorted to a group of sympathizers in the "Mohawk community of Kahnawake" for legitimacy.

Kahnawake is apparently an "Indian reserve" located in Quebec, Canada.

The Farley Mowat and the Robert Hunter ... will now sail under a Mohawk flag registered with the Mohawk Traditional Council, one of Kahnawake's three longhouses. Paul Watson, a Canadian cofounder of Greenpeace, and now captain of the Farley Mowat, was presented with the papers for the two vessels, currently moored in Australia and the Galapagos Islands.

The caption from the article reads: "Paul Watson, founder of Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is given a 5 Nations Confederacy flag by Longhouse members to use in his efforts to try to stop Japan from over fishing."

So apparently killing whales is "over fishing"
However, there was no consensus in Kahnawake over the community's foray into international whaling waters.

Two of three Mohawk longhouses were absent from the ceremony, reflecting political divisions within the community over this move.
Watson's latest self-promotion stunt appears to an attempt to play the Canadian federal government (and perhaps Australian port authorities) off against the "First Nations".
"There's all this talk that they are a sovereign people," said Watson. "We'll see."
Watson has previously described the recognised state of Tuvalu as a "rinky dink" "nation of whores".

There have now been two IWC resolutions calling for states to take actions "as appropriate to prevent and suppress actions that risk human life and property at sea" with regards to Sea Shepherd in particular. It seems that the Netherlands has now acted accordingly, but the response from Australia remains to be seen.




Whale bacon in Hokkaido; Lunch at Kujira-ya

Well, I'm not in Hokkaido, but a friend of mine who was raised in Hokkaido is back in her home town this weekend with some other friends from Bar Maka.

As we can see from the photo she sent me from her mobile phone, apparently they have some whale bacon at their place. Mmm! Looks tasty!

Whale bacon is consistently available in my local supermarket for about 650 yen a packet (I guess containing maybe 50~60 grams). Not cheap, but I did have some once when I found some on discount.

* * *

I mentioned just before IWC 59 got underway that I had lunch at Kujira-ya.

Here's some photos from that day, up in the second floor of Kujira-ya:

Shima-chan had the steak lunch, Tucchi hadn't ever had whale meat before so we recommended the fried whale lunch to her, Saku-chan being a veteran from his school days went for the raw whale sashimi lunch, as did Imaisuke.

Sashimi was also the only lunch menu option I hadn't tried before (I had the steak and fried lunches on previous occasions when I ate their with some Kiwi and Australian friends), so that was my selection, as it was with Acchan. They have cute whale logos on their beer mugs.

All done! Kujira-ya is also a very nice place for a meal, even if it didn't have whale meat as it's central theme. Whether to take your non-Japanese friends there or not depends on how adventurous they are, and perhaps whether they fear being struck down by lightning for daring to eat the meat of the world's most abundant baleen whale species, the Antarctic minke whale.

Geishoku Labo also introduced another new whale meat restaurant in Ikejiri-Ohashi recently, which is on my list of places to go sometime.




Commercial whale catch off Hokkaido

Here's an article on commercial whaling in Japan's coastal waters.
First Baird's beaked whale landing, in Hakodate port, weighing 8.5 tonnes

The first Baird's beaked whale to be caught this year in the Sea of Japan was landed at Hakodate port in Hokkaido late on the evening of the 28th.

The whale, a female of 9.5 metres in length weighing approximately 8.5 tonnes, was caught earlier on the same day in the seas off Matsumae in Hokkaido by a whaling boat from the fishing association of Taiji, Wakayama. The whale was loaded into a trailer by a large crane, and transported to a processor in Hakodate city.

The following morning on the 29th, the whale was sold at auction at the regional marine product wholesale market in Hakodate. Around 1 tonne of red meat was sold off at a price of 1,450 yen per kg, in line with last year's prices. It will be shipped as food.

The Baird's beaked whale hunting season in the Sea of Japan runs until the end of June, with a catch limit of 10 whales. The species is distributed widely in the North Pacific, and while it falls outside International Whaling Commission (IWC) regulations, Japan independently regulates the fishery for conservation of the resource.

I've read that Baird's beaked whale is not as good for eating as baleen whales such as the Minke, and the meat can not be used as Sashimi.

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IWC 59 Aftermath - Japanese media coverage

There was a flurry of media activity in Japan during and after the IWC 59 meeting.

With the Japanese mass media over excited about the comments made by Akira Nakamae of Japan's Fisheries Agency Japan's representative during the IWC meeting (reported widely here as being the first time Japan had threatened to leave the IWC during the actual meeting) Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki explained the statement during a June 1st press conference, saying that "as the anti-whaling nations showed no signs of dealing with this issue sincerely, we announced that there is a possibility that we will fundamentally revise our approach to the IWC".

On June 4th, the new Minister of Agriculture Forests and Fisheries, Norihiko Akagi answered questions in relation to the IWC meeting, with his comments including a statement that "it is rather clear that there is no possibility of the normalization of the IWC, as we have been seeking".

The Minister elaborated that possible options that Japan might consider included withdrawing from the IWC, seeking the establishment of a new international organization in harmony with UNCLOS, and unilaterally resuming commercial whaling within Japan's EEZ. He said that these options would be considered not only amongst the delegation to the IWC, but other domestic stakeholders and other countries that support sustainable use.

On June the 7th, Jiji Tsushin also reported that a fisheries related meeting within the ruling LDP party was held. The LDP has apparently been in favour of withdrawing from the IWC in the past. The Jiji report noted that while Japan's "firm" stance at the IWC received praised, others also said that developments should be observed and actions taken carefully, warning against brash actions leading to nowhere. The possibility of a Japanese product boycott in the case of Japan withdrawing from the IWC was identified as a possible consideration.

Besides these news reports, various editorials related to the IWC situation were published by newspapers across the country.

On May 24, in the lead up to the main meeting an editorial appeared at Kumanichi.com, based in the southern island of Kyushu, but offered no real suggestion on how Japan should proceed.

May 25 saw the Nishi Nippon newspaper, also apparently based in Kyushu, with another editorial but taking a decisive position on the issue. Entitled "Strategy reconsideration necessary", the piece noted that hopes of normalization at the IWC were unlikely. In conclusion, it said "Japan has requested catch quotas but been rejected by anti-whaling nations for almost 20 years. As long as negotiations are conducted at the IWC, the results are certain to be the same in future. If Japan is serious about obtaining catch quotas, we should probably consider revising our strategy".

On May 28th, an editorial appearing in both the Chunichi Shimbun and Tokyo Shimbun suggested that "Japan should work with the likes of Norway, Denmark and Russia to bring about the normalization of the IWC", noting it's mandated purpose of both conserving and making for the sustainable use of whale resources. The editorial praised Japan's plans to not put every issue to a vote and seek to build trust among contracting governments to the extent possible, evaluating that "it is correct to place emphasis on discussions". "Japan should continue to argue persistently for sustainable whaling, and also seek assistance from nations such as the US and Australia in suppressing extreme obstructive actions against the research whaling fleet".

With the IWC meeting drawing to a close, the Kochi Newspaper (from the other southern island of Shikoku, also renowned for whaling and now also whale-watching) published this editorial. They expressed the view that "the reason why the IWC is dysfunctional is because the anti-whaling nations stress only wild animal protection, and won't change their stance of not accepting scientific data". Anti-whaling nations were also criticised for arguing that a new international monitoring scheme was required before catch limits could be set for the Antarctic minke whale, but then last year aborting talks as such a system would lead to a commercial whaling resumption. While recognising that the path to a commercial whaling resumption via the IWC is a long way off, the Kochi Newspaper nonetheless suggests that "the risks for a resource dependant nation such as Japan withdrawing from the IWC are large, and Japan thus has no choice but to take time and continue attempts to persuade the IWC on a scientific basis".

On the 3rd of June the Shinano Daily's editorial suggested that "in order to gain understanding for Japan's position, it's important for Japan to increase the transparency of our research, and make our analyses more persuasive".

The 5th of June saw an editorial from the Sanyo Shimbun, which offered the view that "more important than anything is for Japan to calmly and persistently discuss the matter with IWC contracting governments".

Finally the 6th of June brought the last editorial I have seen on the issue, from the Hokkaido Shimbun Press. Considering the possibilities available through quitting the IWC, the paper suggested that such an action might lead to retaliation in the form of further restrictions on Japan's tuna fishery. While acknowledging the IWC's treatment of Japan's coastal whaling request as a double-standard, the paper notes that Norway resumed commercial whaling in 1993 while still an IWC member, and that Iceland too resumed commercial whaling last year after quiting the IWC in 1992, then rejoining ten years later. "There is the scope for Japan to aim at a commercial whaling resumption while remaining within the IWC". Finally the paper also cautions that whaling doesn't command a great level of interest amongst the Japanese citizenship.

Amongst the general Internet populace, two huge threads of comments (more than 2,000 responses in each) were posted in response to firstly, Japan's suggestion of possible IWC withdrawal, and secondly the subsequent remark from Australia's Malcolm Turnbull, likening Japan's hinting at possible withdrawal to a baby spitting out it's dummy. The two threads are here and here. A huge number of comments were posted in favour of withdrawing from the IWC altogether, with a fairly low proportion of dissenting anti-whaling voices.

I also got an email from a Japanese friend of mine (my translation):
"I think even knowing that there could be various issues with withdrawing, withdrawing would be nice and clean. The IWC was originally a club set up because of a fear of whales being driven to extinction, but now it's opposed to whaling on the basis of "oh the poor whales!" The Japanese joined up with the desire to go on eating whales all our lives. "We hope to eat whale!" "No, that's mean to the whales, so you must not!" Discussions will never be possible like this. Normally, people are anti because they have a low awareness of whale eating. They probably don't feel thankful. First of all, they need to eat Japan's whale cuisine, and understand Japanese people's way of thinking, otherwise I feel talking is just a waste of time.

Withdraw! Withdraw! "

The e-kujira blog also has an entry from Joji Morishita, in which he explained Japan's approach at IWC 59, and how the situation led to their decision to make a statement on the JFA's options during the IWC meeting.

"I think 'at last' we have started to move in a new direction", he wrote, which again leads me to recall his statements earlier in the year - "Something will happen this summer".

* * *

Despite what some optimistic editorial writers may believe about the IWC, the whaling issue is not one that will ever be resolved through patient and persistent discussions. Indeed I imagine the fundamental disagreement will still remain with us, regardless of what happens to the IWC over the next few years.

Scientific arguments illustrating the potential of various whale stocks to sustain certain levels of harvest are also irrelevant, as far as resolving the issue goes. While 20 years ago anti-whalers sought to disguise their true objections to whaling in arguments of scientific uncertainty, or concerns about enforcement, today the hard-core amongst them are completely open in their refusal to consider the lifting of the "commercial whaling moratorium" under any set of circumstances.

Hypothetically even if all of the world's sovereign states were IWC contracting governments, it seems likely that neither camp would be able to command the 75% super-majority that the IWC requires to be able to function at all (let alone in accordance with the object and purpose of it's convention).

Akira Nakamae said during his address that, "we are particularly interested in holding preparatory talks to establish an alternative international organisation to manage and conserve cetacean resources".

As a management organization, with the two camps having incompatible aims, the IWC is a failure and is already largely irrelevant. Norway sets it's own catch limits, as does Iceland, and even Japan has commercial whaling operations in relation to whale species that it regards as out of the IWC's management competence. Other whaling states such Canada and Indonesia aren't even IWC members.

But from the perspective of an international gathering to discuss conservation or protection related issues such as ship strike, entanglement in fishing gear, etc, there's reason to believe the IWC might still have a future (albeit with a reduced budget).

Rather than seek to establish a complete duplicate of the IWC, perhaps the focus will be on a new organization with the setting of sustainable catch limits for cetaceans as it's fundamental aim. This much would fill the void in the international management area that has been created by the polarized IWC. How to bring this to fruition is another issue entirely.

Lots to speculate and ponder at the current time - I'm looking forward to the summer.

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Whale consumption still driven by private demand

In the western media, anti-whaling groups are often quoted criticising Japan because whale meat has become a delicacy, and more recently in some instances because (according to them) school children are "forced" to eat it through school lunch programmes.

Anti-whaling groups pushed this line quite a lot last year after the establishment of Geishoku Labo, which announced it would seek to establish new markets for whale meat, such as in hospitals and office lunches.

So how much whale meat does actually get disposed of through government supported programmes (*1) like school lunches?

We can get a reasonable idea from the ICR's regular press releases covering disposal of the by-product whale meat from it's research programmes, the latest with respect to the JARPA 2006/2007 season coming out last month (see here if you read Japanese).

As the JARPA programme was cut short this year due to the Nisshin Maru fire accident, fewer whales were caught than in the 2005/2006 cruise, and thus the amount of meat available is accordingly less. The ICR reports a total of 505 minkes and 3 fin whales were captured, with ultimately 2, 105.1 tonnes of whale meat products being made available (versus 3,435.8 tonnes in 2006, see here).

Of the 2105.1 tonnes from JARPA in 2007, 344.8 tonnes (16.4%) has been allocated to public uses, which includes purposes such as local government events and school lunch provision.

The following graph illustrates the amount of meat allocated for public uses (from both JARPA and JARPN programmes) versus the total amount of by-product (JARPA + JARPN) available in recent years.

(* Note that JARPN by-product figures aren't available for 2007 yet and thus aren't included in this graph)

Graphing these figures shows that public purpose allocation is a minor contributor to total consumption of research whaling by-product. The actual volumes of meat for public purposes range from a total of 468.1 tonnes in 2002, up to a high of 1,033.8 tonnes in 2004 (26%), and down in 2006 to 896.30 tonnes (16.8%).

In percentage terms, this year's JARPA allocation of 16.4% is roughly in line with last year, although in terms of actual volume, one might surmise that around 900 tonnes of whale meat is required to satisfy demand for those public purposes.

Meanwhile, in contrast, total volumes of outgoing whale meat stock (including meat from both research whaling and other sources) from nationwide frozen and chilled storage facilities have been increasing significantly. This coincides with news of increasing whale meat sales channels in Japan, such as with izakaya chains Hananomai and Tsubohachi upgrading whale meat dishes to their regular menus. Last year, a total of 8,558 tonnes of whale meat left nationwide stockpiles, while just under 9,000 tonnes came in.

* * *

Also of note, the ICR announced in the same press release that the average price for minke whale meat will be 6.7% higher, while for fin whale meat prices will be 10.7% higher than for by-product from last year's JARPN programme. Earlier this year officials at the Fisheries Agency's whaling section had commented (Japanese article) that they would do what they could to help limit the impact of the fire accident on whale meat prices.

* * *

(*1) I have previously translated some Japanese news items about whale meat in school lunches (
here, here and here) as well as public events (here and here).



Whale meat stockpile update - April 2007

April 2007's marine product stockpile figures were released today by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (Japanese PDF format, Excel format). As usual, I've extracted the figures specific to whale meat...

April 2007 outgoing stock: 464 tonnes

The clamps have come down on consumption now in the wake of the Nisshin Maru fire accident in February that cut the JARPA expedition short. As was the case in March, April's outgoing figure of 464 tonnes was down to 83% of that of the same month in 2006. However, April 2007's figure represents increases on years prior to that (133% and 178% of the April 2005, and April 2004 figures respectively).

Given that wholesalers will have been anticipating lower whale meat supply in 2007 compared to 2006, this figure is not particularly surprising.

Nonetheless, the 464 tonne outgoing stock volume is only about 60% or thereabouts of the recent 12-month moving average volume (around 750 tonnes per month).

From a supply perspective there is a clear reason why whale meat consumption tends to be slower during the first 6 months of the year as compared with the latter 6 months of the year. The whale meat by-product from the research programmes, which makes up the majority of supply to the market, is sold during the second half of the year. The 2007 JARPA by-product sale will be conducted between June 25 and July 25. In a recent blog post (in Japanese), Geishoku Labo stated that "most products are almost out of stock", due to the apparent popularity of whale meat products in the second half of 2006, and 2007 JARPA by-product supply being significantly less than last year. As such Geishoku Labo predicts that there will be a "sense of stock shortage" until this October when the by-product of the in progress JARPN programme becomes available.

Out of interest, I grouped the outgoing whale stock volume figures by the months of January to June and compared with volumes from July to December. The volume of outgoing stock in the first half of the year was between 58% and 63% of the volume that left stock in the second half of the year for all years that figures are available on the Ministry's web page (i.e., 58.2% in 2004, 63.3% in 2005, and 58.1% in 2006).

As such, the May 2007 outgoing stock figure is also likely to be around the same level as this April figure, but we can expect to see a jump in outgoing volume during June and July, with the JARPA by-product sale taking place then. Incidentally, last year's JARPA by-product sale took place for a month starting on the 3rd of July, so June 2006's outgoing volume was also relatively small, but assuming the stock is shipped after the first few days of the JARPA auctions, the story should be slightly different this year.

April 2007 incoming stock: 278 tonnes

As I imagined last month, it appears that all of the JARPA by-product was reflected in the March stockpile figures, as we can see with this relatively small amount of incoming supply. In 2006, the by-product was reflected in both March and April's incoming stock figures.

April 2007 overall stockpile movement: Down 186 to 4,404 tonnes

This month end April stockpile figure is only 74% of the amount of whale meat held in stock at the same time last year (due to the lower JARPA supply). Put in real terms, the stockpile is 1,565 tonnes less than the size of the stockpile at the same time last year. Interestingly, the JARPA by-product supply of 2,105.1 tonnes in 2007 (ICR press release) is 1330.7 less than the 3435.8 tonnes that were available as JARPA by-product in 2006.

The average yield per Antarctic minke whale (*1) was 4021 kg in 2007 versus 3714 kg in 2006, which explains some of this difference.

Graph: Annual volumes

As with March, outgoing stock volume for the first 4 months of 2007 (2,796 tonnes) remains higher than the first 4 months of 2006 (2,375 tonnes), but also as expected incoming stock volume for the first 4 months of 2007 (3,296 tonnes) is significantly lower (32%) than incoming stock volume from January to April 2006 (4,832 tonnes).

In May the gap between the YTD outgoing stock volume and incoming stock volume should narrow once again, and in June / July the YTD outgoing stock volume will likely jump ahead of incoming stock volume quite significantly.

Graph: Monthly stockpile movements

Nothing to add to this picture this month.

Graph: 12-month moving averages

The outgoing stock 12-month moving average is now clearly leveling out, and the incoming stock figure also came down sharply as predicted.

This is significant as it illustrates that the recent level of whale meat consumption, indicated by outgoing stock volume, is running at a higher rate than the market is being supplied with. The outgoing stock 12-month moving average can now only decrease over the coming months, to adjust to the lower level of supply available.

Still, next month, the outgoing stock 12-month moving average is almost certain to remain above that of the incoming stock 12-month moving average, although with supply constricted until the end of June, the outgoing average will probably head south a little further yet.

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles

No really big movements in the regional stockpiles in this month's figures, but a summary of the top 7 stockpile location movements in April 2007 is below (previous month's level in parenthesis):

1. Tokyo wards: Down 66 to 2,270 tonnes (2,336)
2. Ishinomaki: Down 37 to 488 tonnes (525)
3. Hakodate: Down 12 to 454 tonnes (466)
4. Kushiro: Down 20 to 269 tonnes (289)
5. Osaka: Down 22 to 239 tonnes (261)
6. Kanazawa: Down 4 to 228 tonnes (232)
7. Shimonoseki: Up 7 to 124 tonnes (117)

The top 7 whale meat stockpile locations thus held 4,072 tonnes (92.5%, up 0.5% compared to March) of the total April month end stock figure, and of that, the 2,105 tonnes of JARPA by-product is not available for sale until the end of June. Therefore effectively the amount of stock available for sale between the end of April and end of June is only 1,967 tonnes. When one considers that the recent 12-month moving average outgoing volume figure stands at around 750 tonnes per month, there is only somewhere between 2 and 3 months supply left available.

These tight supply conditions may be putting upward pressure on retail prices.

Also, while 464 tonnes were recorded as having left stockpiles during the month of April, the sum of the decreases in regional stock levels (as above) is only 161 tonnes, so presumably while levels went down, incoming stock from other sources offset this.

* * *

May figures will be released on July 11.

* * *

(*1) Remember Junko Sakuma's supposition that the JARPA research fleet had dumped hundreds of tonnes of whale meat at sea, in order to try to make sense of her faulty assumptions about average meat yield from Antarctic minke whales being constant from year to year? If you have forgotten, or missed it at the time, you can read my piece on it here. I imagine Sakuma's anti-whaling group IKAN will make no mention of this on their homepage, just as Sakuma and IKAN have been silent regarding recent increases in whale meat consumption. A credible NGO would admit it when their predictions and forecasts proved to be wrong, but a successful anti-whaling campaign is based only on throwing enough mud on the assumption that some of it might stick.

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Post IWC 59...

A bit of a gap in the blogging, but I'm sure readers will be aware of what happened at IWC 59.

I've got some things to cover as time permits over the coming week or so:

1) An overview of Japanese media coverage of IWC 59, particularly in response to Akira Nakamae's statement

2) The details of the sale of whale meat from JARPA was announced

3) Chilled / Frozen marine product stockpile figures for April will be announced on June 12

Details of each, later....



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