Friday, March 05, 2010

For the Australians About Whaling in Japan

Since the Australian government has taken the hardest of hardline stances regarding whaling in recent years, some random idiosyncratic thoughts about means by which a larger number of whales might get saved, particularly in light of the Maquieira proposal, where the operative paragraph is:
Fundamental components of this consensus decision are to: bring whaling by all members under the control of the IWC; reduce catch levels significantly; limit operations to those members who currently take whales; establish caps that are within sustainable levels for a ten year period; enhance monitoring and control measures; create a South Atlantic sanctuary; and provide a mechanism for enterprise and capacity building for developing countries. Members agree not to authorize whaling outside IWC control and not to exceed the prescribed catch limits (Appendix A). Subsistence whaling by indigenous people that was previously approved by the Commission will continue under existing management measures. The Commission will now refer to aboriginal subsistence whaling as indigenous subsistence whaling.
- Stop warning about catastrophe "after the resumption of commercial whaling" - Despite the best efforts of Greenpeace and others confuse the public on this issue, commercial whaling never ended in Japan. After the imposition of the moratorium in 1986, the five municipalities with small-scale coastal whaling operations (Hakodate, Ayukawa, Abashiri, Wadaura and Taiji) shifted from hunting the now protected and numerous Minke whales to hunting rarer toothed species: Baird's Beaked whales, false killer whales and Risso's dolphins. In addition to the small-scale coastal whaling operations some fisheries cooperatives in Hokkaido, Iwate, Wakayama and Okinawa prefectures conduct under-reported "hand harpoon" hunts of hundreds of toothed whales and smaller cetaceans.

A limited commercial hunt of abundant species carried out under international supervision seems preferable to the current policy, which has encouraged largely invisible hunts of species not protected by the IWC moratorium.

- Don't get hung up about the research whaling exception - Japanese negotiators are fighting for the right to continue conduct research whaling operations in the Southern Ocean even after the lifting of the moratorium on commercial whaling of some of the 13 IWC-regulated whale species.

Before gagging, remember that having the right to do something does not mean that one will do something. The costs of manning and sending a factory ship and harpoon ships south of the Equator, with the chance that the Sea Shepherd and its brethren will be waiting for them, all in order to collect only a tiny number of whales allowed under the new quota system, will not pass the fiscal sanity test. The Hatoyama government is already dragging every government-supported program over the coals in search of savings. It is not going to keep a factory ship program going when Japan's meat needs can be satisfied either by near-shore hunts in the North Pacific or imports from Norway and Iceland.

For a country that cannot use military force as a means of settling disputes, the protection of rights guaranteed by treaty, even useless ones, is an obsession. Japan's negotiators need to preserve the right to conduct research whaling even if (especially if) the new government wants to phase out the actual conduct of research whaling expeditions.

- Demand unified data collection - Currently, the data on number of small cetaceans killed and processed in Japan is collected by the individual prefectural governments and the five municipalities conducting coastal whaling. The pelagic research whaling expeditions report to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. With all the people at working in the Fisheries Agency, the purported scientific approach to whaling, and the international political pressure continued whaling brings upon Japan, one would think that the government would have a rigorous, unified, timely and easily accessible national database on whale hunts and the whale meat industry.

Not exactly.

- Get the by-catch numbers in the totals - One of the tragedies of normal purse sein and drift net fishing is that large numbers of seabirds, sharks and sea mammals die in the nets. For some reason, however, there is virtually no mention of the domestic market's absorption of the large number of baleen whales killed during the course of fishing operations. In 2008 (the latest figures I have found) 136 baleen whales (133 Minke, 2 humpbacks, 1 fin) were landed and recorded as by-catch. The flesh of all of these baleen whales was consumed, with 128 of them being sold for a profit in the domestic commercial whale meat market.

- Insist on commercialism - If commercial harvesting of IWC-regulated species is to resume, then the hunt has to be commercial. No more government subsidies to the hunters or their communities, or sleazy wheezes like distributing whale meat for free to the public schools so students "can get a taste of life as it was 50 years ago."

- Be patient - Impatience with the Japanese government, as exemplified by the direct actions taken as at sea of the Sea Shepherd Society, has hardened public support for Japan's various whaling operations. Rather than going for a complete reversal of prior behaviors, work hard to get a reduction in the numbers of cetaceans being killed, even if it means a resumption of commercial hunts of IWC-regulated species. After the new regime is in place, work on convincing the citizenry that whaling is inhumane and pointless. Make the decline or cancellation of the hunt due to domestic pressures, not international ones.

Besides, there is a new ruling party in Japan. The folks behind the "Japan" sign are different from the crowd at the 60th annual meeting. Sure, the ministry bureaucrat may be the same, but his/her boss is not. Work with these new people; they want to work with you.

- Forget about the International Court of Justice - For two reasons:

1) Only the very best of Japan's students pass the entrance examinations to enter Tokyo University...and only the best of those who enter Tokyo University enter the Faculty of Law...and only the very best of those who graduate from the Faculty of Law enter into the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs...and only the very best of those who enter the Ministry of Foreign Affairs get selected to serve in the Treaties Bureau. The Bruces and Sheilas of the Treaties Bureau know more about language than a cartload of philologists...and they know every comma, period, preposition, suffix, adverb and semi-colon in every treaty Japan has ever signed.

You think you can take these folks on?

What about the matter of the president of the International Court of Justice's being the Crown Prince's beloved wife's dad?

(What bureau was ICJ President Owada the Director-General of in the Foreign Ministry? The Treaties Bureau.)

2) Two years ago, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd characterized the whaling dispute as "an important disagreement between friends."

You do not sue your friends.


Anonymous said...

While I cannot comment on the general Australian motivation for getting involved in this, I think most NZers would be generally happy if two things happened:

1) A general reduction in catch especially of rare species - best way as you suggest it made to operate on a purely commercial basis, and take a bit of the hypocrisy out of it. I think in the last two years the government and even some more pragmatic environmentalists here have come over to this line of thinking.

2) To not have "them" hanging around down here doing it. To be sure NZ/Australia's claims to broader sovereignty in the Southern Ocean are suspect, but one thing that is overlooked by Northern Hemisphere observers is that this is not so much an nationalistic anti-Japanese thing solely (although I am sure there are elements) but an anti-Northern Hemisphere thing. Same with the French and nuclear testing. And other annoying countries coming and thieving our fish supplies.

Something just kind of rubs us up the wrong way about some of this stuff - perhaps it was the ozone hole or something ;-)

On the other hand most people here have never heard of the Norwegian whaling programme and would probably be surprised. And be not particularly concerned.

Jan Moren said...

Another aspect though: several whale species (dolphins included) are nowhere near endangered and could easily absorb a modest amount of hunting indefinitely. And for what it's worth, Japanese are also indigenous and depend on whale meat exactly as much as Inuits do - as in, not at all, but eating the stuff is part of the culture.

What about whale intelligence and sociability? Well, what about it? Pigs are - and I say this as a brain researcher - smarter and closer to humans than whales. But lots of people around find the idea of whale meat disgusting and immoral. Yes - and lots of people (2 billion, give or take) find eating pigs similarly offensive.

Any argument against sustainable whale hunting is also an argument against eating pigs. If or when Australia bans the eating of pork they may have a moral leg to stand on. Until then, not so much.

As an aside, Greenpeace and the IWC has probably done more for keeping up whale hunting than anyone else. Whale meat is generally not very popular - when it was common it was served in schools and hospitals because it was cheap, not beceause of the taste - and whaling would probably have long since dwindled to near nothing if it hadn't become a matter of protecting state sovereignity. Of course, Greenpeace has a rather strong financial interest in keeping whale hunting around; nothing else will fill the donation coffers quite like that symbolic issue.

Anonymous said...

Would illegal catches be reduced by resuming a limited commercial whaling program? I think this was the argument a former head of IWC made in favor for Japanese whaling to go commercial.

High proportion of protected minke whales sold on Japanese markets is due to illegal, unreported or unregulated exploitation

Market surveys of whale meat in Japan, 2007 – 2008, with reference to the number of fin whales for sale

Anonymous said...

In addition to Janne's point about Greenpeace prolonging it, I think the Seasheperd's increased activities have slowly changed the mood down here. Not only because of their methods alienating people, but irrespective of who caused what, it really looks like a petty bunch of "northerners" fighting some silly battle in our backyard. Of course there are some kiwis on the boats, but the support for the activities clearly comes from elsewhere.

I think more than anything, people are getting bored!

m said...

This made me laugh:

> Only the very best of Japan's students pass the entrance examinations to enter Tokyo University

Martin J Frid said...

Another way to think intelligently about this issue (and your post is excellent) is to consider the high levels of PCB and mercury in the meat from these animals. Not only is it toxic for people who eat them, but it is a sign that for a long time, we have seriously polluted our planet. The issues are connected in ways that the comma-reading experts don't seem to be able to grasp.

Anonymous said...

Yay!!! more mercury for everyone!!!

Plenty of idiots are graduates of famous Japanese universities.

Bryce said...

”Of course there are some kiwis on the boats”

Well to be fair, some of the boats were actually owned by kiwis at one stage. And Greenpeace has a pretty strong following in NZ (again, mostly because of the tests), as does Sea Shepherd in Australia, as I understand it.