Monday, March 15, 2010

More on Whaling in Japan

Bryan Walsh of TIME explains very little in what is supposed to be an explainer article, proving once again that the real endangered species is the American magazine editor who gives a damn. How could the following line ever get past anyone with even the slightest concern about informing the reader, one of the ostensible but clearly lesser goals of what is purportedly a magazine?
Japan is not the only country to refuse to sign onto the whaling ban, but it's the only one that pursues whale in any significant way.
Not one but two falsehoods, in only 25 words. That has got to be some kind of modern record.

By contrast, Banyan explains a great deal in what has to be some of his most impassioned writing, a Notebook post offering background to his most recent column for his home publication.

On one point Mr. Walsh, Banyan and myself are in agreement -- the degustation of whale flesh is, as a purely sensory experience, simply not worth the fighting for.


Jan Moren said...

A large number of Japanese would agree on the taste, if I'm any judge of sentiment. Which again illustrates the basic problem: the hard line on whaling transforms it from an issue of conservation and dietary habits into one of national sovereignty.

I wish the international community had taken a pragmatic, evidence-based approach and basically said that OK, whaling for meat is just fine as long as it's the traditional form (coastal whaling for Japan) and species that aren't endangered (most are not). If they had, Japan (and Norway) would be catching far less whale than they do today, and eating whale would be a rare local oddity of a few communities rather than an expression of national support.

But pragmatism and the gentle, unnoticed fading away of a foodstuff that is not particularly liked is unfortunately in nobody's interest. That doesn't make for politically safe electoral red meat, and it doesn't bring outrage and large monetary donations.

qwyrxian said...

I'm fairly sure I've seen more than one talent/commentator on Japanese TV say just what Janne Moren is referring to--that, while they, personally, don't like whale meet, they find it offensive that other countries have decided that they are the final arbiter of what Japan may or may not eat. I tend to agree (although, personally, I don't mind whale meat).

Unknown said...

Whale populations are numerous and increasing.

The whalers argue repeatedly that whale populations are numerous and increasing, and that their catches will not deplete those populations.

However, these arguments are based on some doubtful science. For example:

The website of Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) claims that populations of humpback and fin whales are growing by 14-16. The IWC’s Scientific Committee has agreed is biologically impossible.

The Japanese government continues to cite an outdated estimate of 760,000 minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere.

The 760,000 figure was an estimate based on surveys completed in 1987/88 which the IWC Scientific Committee once acknowledged was the best available at the time. Since then, more recent surveys have suggested a significantly lower abundance of minke whales. Indeed, the Scientific Committee agreed in 2000 that the 760,000 number was no longer appropriate. There has been no agreed population estimate since and the population may be declining.

Proposed Japanese catches of humpback and fin whales in the Antarctic will occur in populations that are believed to be below the level at which catches would be allowed under scientific guidelines developed by the IWC.
Catches of humpbacks may threaten recovery of isolated humpback populations in the Pacific as well as interfering with existing non-lethal research programs.

MTC said...

whalerider -

What you say is likely true. It is also possibly irrelevant.

By permitting the limited resumption coastal whaling of select baleen whale species, the new proposal seeks to put some daylight in between the small-scale commercial coastal whalers and the subsidy-sucking pelagic whalers. One can pretty much assume that the initial coastal quota request will be over 95% Minke, with perhaps a handful of humpbacks and fins thrown in for appearance's sake. It is possible that the coastal whalers will continue the hunting of Baird's beaked whales as well.

The politics of the compromise, however, demands a dramatic reduction in the overall numbers of whales being killed. There is no way any of the non-whaling member states would accept the deal otherwise.

The ICR's Southern Ocean numbers are probably bogus but who cares? The IWC's quotas will be based on reducing the hunt below its present levels, not on the ICR's claims of sustainability.

Furthermore, everyone has a sense that under the new regime the Japanese pelagic whaling industry -- and its lobbying arm the ICR -- will fall to the budget-cutter's knife.

Our Man in Abiko said...

Don't whales eat fish too? Kill a whale save a fish, or several million.

Jan Moren said...

Save The Plankton! One at a time - I insist.