I ran across this article the other day and would like to put it up here for comment. Whale is hardly suburban wildlife here in landlocked Saitama, but I’ve seen whale meat in supermarkets, sushi bars, advertised on TV shopping, etc. I also believe that “research whaling” as conducted by Japan is nothing more than a front for commercial whaling (why else would it get government assistance as a “reconstruction” measure following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake?)
Take note: not all of Japan has traditionally eaten whale meat. In fact, some coastal villages considered whales to be sacred animals. Unfotunately, these voices were drowned out in the process of nation-building and consumerism.
There is more to this issue than meets the eye, but I’ll just deal with the article as it stands.
Have a read. My comments in bold black.
Whale meat imports set after 23 yrs
December 21, 2013
The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Japanese firm that has played a central role in research whaling will soon launch full-scale whale meat imports after a 23-year hiatus as a result of a drop in hauls due to obstruction by the Sea Shepherd antiwhaling group, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
Right off the bat we have a company (read: profits first organisation) playing a central role in “research whaling”. And it appears that the “research” doesn’t require the whales to come from any specific area…
Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, Ltd., a Tokyo-based shipping company, is expected to import about 30 tons of minke whale meat from Norway early next year, sources close to the deal said.
… or come in any form other than “meat”.
Antiwhaling countries are most certain to file a strong protest against the planned whale imports by Japan, as the International Court of Justice is expected to issue a ruling early next year on a case filed by Australia calling for Japan to stop such whaling, observers said.
Experts said the planned import would mark a turning point for research whaling.
Minke whales are designated as a species threatened with extinction under Appendix I of the Washington Convention. Signatories to the convention are banned from commercial transactions of these species. However, deals between Japan and Norway are possible because neither country is a signatory to the agreement.
Isn’t it nice to not be a signatory to international agreements? (But only the inconvenient ones)
Since commercial whaling was suspended in 1987, Japan has managed to secure whale meat through research whaling. However, the Sea Shepherd has ramped up its obstructive activities in the Antarctic Ocean since the mid-2000s, leading to a huge drop in hauls to 103 in fiscal 2012, far below the mandatory ceiling of 935 catches.
Incidently, if whaling is a “traditonal cultural activity”, when did the “tradition” of hunting in the Antarctic Ocean begin?
Koichi Matsumoto, 44, the proprietor of a whale specialty restaurant in Tokyo’s Tsukiji district, hailed the whale meat import plan. “If whale meat can be obtained cheaply as a result of imports, it will become possible to spread whale through the dietary culture,” he said.
Of course a perveyor of whale meat will welcome these plans. It’s not exactly rocket surgery…
Currently, the red meat of minke whales sells at relatively high retail prices of ¥3,000 to ¥4,500 per 100 grams.
One point of concern, however, is that the importer is Kyodo Senpaku. Along with the Institute of Cetacean Research, the shipping company has played a pivotal role in research whaling, as it not only prepared vessels for research whaling, but also was involved in selling of whales.
“Research whaling for the year is funded by sales profits from the previous year, so the sale of imported whale meat will be necessary to continue conducting research whaling,” the company said.
Because their main research is discovering the most profitable retail price for whale meat?
However, it is feared that Australia and other antiwhaling countries will criticize the whale meat import plan as signaling that Japan has been conducting commercial whaling under the pretext of research whaling, observers said.
In other words, they’re worried that the rest of the world aren’t as stupid as they hoped.
In 2010, Australia filed a lawsuit with the ICJ calling for Japan to stop its research whaling, arguing that Japan was actually doing commercial whaling. Japan and Australia made oral pleas in the case in June and July this year. The ICJ’s ruling, expected as early as next year, will “have no direct impact,” said Masayuki Komatsu, a former official of the Fisheries Agency. However, he expressed concern about a possible backlash, saying, “Australia and other countries oppose whaling as such, so they will make political announcements opposing the import plan.”
“Japan’s decision to import whale meat means it has become impossible to earn profits from research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean. This marks a major turning point for research whaling,” said Ayako Okubo, an instructor at the School of Marine Science and Technology at Tokai University.
“If the volume of imports rises, it will be necessary to reexamine state subsidies for research whaling,” she said. “I’m afraid sales will not expand if prices are set at a high level for whale meat from research whaling.”
Again, the whole point of this so-called research whaling seems to be profits. Just come out an say it – “We’re only in it for the money.”
The planned whale imports by Japan pose no problems regarding international law and will not be affected by the ICJ’s decision, an official of the Fisheries Agency said.
In other words, “We’ve found a back door.”