Tag Archives: whaling

Lies, Damned Lies and Research

19 Sep

Hi blog.

This interesting and revealing article appeared on my news feed.

From the Japan Times

Did Japan fudge the truth about whaling?

Did Japan fudge the truth about whaling?



 SEP 17, 2016

If you’ve been following the tragic farce that is Japan’s official stance on whaling, you’ll know that the arguments made by the country’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) to try and justify the hunting of whales have been soundly rejected. Japan maintains it needs to kill whales as part of a scientific research program to learn more about whale populations and determine if larger-scale commercial whaling is sustainable. Few people really believe this and even the International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan’s whaling program was not scientific. Since 2005, the judges said, some 3,600 minke whales have been killed, and just two research papers have been published.

Many supporters of whaling don’t even claim that the program is useful for gathering scientific data. Those who support whaling often cite tradition and culture as reasons for continuing to hunt whales. In fact, whaling doesn’t have a significant history in Japan. It was conducted on a very small scale until after World War II, and then only on a larger scale for 20 years or so.

So I was interested to see a paper published last week suggesting that Japan had falsified its whaling data for whale catches in the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers behind the paper claim Japan all but lied to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) about the whales it was catching.

I spoke to Phillip Clapham, leader of the Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, about what he had uncovered.

Clapham and his colleague, Yulia Ivashchenko, compared the length data of whales captured by the Soviet whaling fleet in the 1960s and ’70s with that reported by Japan to the IWC. They found a large mismatch, with the whales caught by Japanese vessels reportedly much longer than the whales recorded by the Soviet boats. The researchers concluded that the difference in length data could only be explained if the Japanese fishing boats had exaggerated the lengths of their catches so that it looked like they were catching legal-sized animals. “It indicates cheating on a large scale,” Clapham says. Clapham and Ivashchenko’s study is published in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

Why would Japanese whaling vessels misreport their catches? “Presumably because they wanted to kill as many whales as possible, including undersized animals — those under the IWC’s minimum legal length, which was instituted to protect females,” Clapham says. “That required them to fake the lengths of many of the whales in the catch.”

Clapham knows more than most about the truth behind Japan’s whaling program. Last year, he published a study suggesting that Japan operated a large-scale, illegal whaling program in the North Pacific in the 1960s. Then, as now, whaling was conducted by ships dedicated to harpooning and catching the animals, operating in tandem with a factory ship, where the whales were butchered.

How on earth could Japanese whalers get away with such behavior? The answer is simple: No entity existed to check the validity of the catches until 1972, when the International Observer Scheme was introduced.

Yet even when this system was introduced, Japanese vessels allegedly continued to falsify data beyond 1972. How?

“This system had an independent inspector on board — one of a different nationality than the factory ship, so, in theory, it ruled out cheating,” Clapham says. “But we know from Soviet biologists that it didn’t entirely. Inspectors couldn’t be on the processing deck 24 hours a day and they were sometimes intentionally distracted with ‘celebrations’ by officers who took them to drink in their cabin when something illegal was about to come aboard.”

Japanese whaling has changed — to an extent. As mentioned earlier, the International Court of Justice decided that Japan’s whaling program was not scientific in 2014, but it did not ban research whaling altogether. The IWC allows whaling by indigenous people, and this provision is applied to Greenland and Alaska. It also theoretically allows whaling for research purposes, which is how Japan tries to justify its activities.

Since Japan’s (privately run) Institute for Cetacean Research sets its own quotas for the number of whales its boats can catch, there aren’t rules to break like there were in the 1960s and ’70s. Well, that’s not quite true. It’s not permitted to catch lactating females and calves, although Clapham says there’s good photographic evidence that this does happen. Incidentally, in March this year, the Fisheries Agency reported that Japan’s Antarctic whaling fleet caught 230 female minke whales, 90 percent of which were pregnant.

The ban on commercial whaling has allowed whale numbers to rebound after dropping to dangerously low levels. Whale numbers have also been increasing in the Arctic as a result of sea-ice loss. These factors will increase the number of calls for the ban on commercial whaling to be lifted. That would cause no end of problems, Clapham says. “The whaling nations today maintain that the system of inspection proposed should commercial whaling resume is adequate, yet it’s clear from genetic analysis of what’s being sold in the Japanese market that there’s stuff there that you can’t account for through the whaling we know about,” Clapham says.

Japan and the other whaling countries have refused to accept a truly independent, third-party system that monitors every step, from the catch to the market.

Polls indicate that most people in Japan don’t care one way or another about whaling. Perhaps the public would feel more strongly if they knew more about what happened in the 1960s and ’70s. Many people were misled back then, because Japanese whalers are believed to have fudged the data on the length of whales they were catching. I hope this realization will help shift the mood in Japan from indifference to disgust.

Article ends.

Why am I not surprised?  Since I don’t have anything nice to say, I’ll let you make up your own mind.


Having a wail of a time…

5 Dec

Hi blog.

Bad news again as Japanese conservatives continue to get their way.

Normally I wouldn’t include an article from Japan Today, which has been bought out by the right-wing sympathetic Sankei group, but this one includes some interesting information.  Save yourself the bother of going to the link as the comments section displays the worst vitriol of the human zoo. (Comments by one “tinawatanabe” – who seems to magically appear like a rabid fairy godmother whenever Japan’s actions are criticized – are particularly jingoistic and caustic)


My comments in bold black.

Japan’s whaling fleet departs for hunt despite international outrage


Japan’s whaling fleet set out for the Antarctic on Tuesday to resume a hunt for the mammals after a year-long hiatus, prompting criticism from Australia as well as key ally, the United States.

Year-long hiatus?  Oh, yes.  The period when Japan – whose officials love to refer as “a nation of law” – actually decided not to ignore the decision of the International Court of Justice.

Japan aims to take more than 300 whales before the hunt ends next year and nearly 4,000 over the next 12 years as part of a scientific program to research the whales.

Research: “What’s the going price for minke whale meat?”

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled last year that Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop and an International Whaling Commission (IWC) panel said in April that Japan had yet to demonstrate a need for killing whales.


But Tokyo retooled its plan for the 2015/16 season to cut the number of minke whales it intends to take to 333, down by two-thirds from previous hunts.

So, somehow, by killing “only” one third of your targeted goal, you think it will make it acceptable even when the ICJ’s ordered Japan to “…revoke any extant authorization, permit or licence to kill, take or treat whales in relation to JARPA II, and refrain from granting any further permits under Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention, in pursuance of that programme”?

“Last year, regrettably, the ICJ made its ruling and we were unable to take whales,” said Tomoaki Nakao, the mayor of the western city of Shimonoseki that is home to the whaling fleet and part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s election district.

Wait a minute.  Abe’s election district.  Abe, revisionist, who seems to want to drag Japan back to the 1930s.  And if my memory serves me correctly, this is the very same port which received funds siphoned off from the Tohoku Earthquake disaster relief funds, purportedly because the other major whaling port had been damaged by the tsunami.

“There’s nothing as happy as this day,” he told the fleet’s crew at a ceremony prior to their departure.

Roll out that pork barrel!

Shortly before noon the ships sailed away under a clear blue sky, with family members and officials waving from the shore. The hunt is expected to last until March.

Japan, which has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its food culture, began what it calls “scientific whaling” in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.

Interest groups have always managed to play the “culture” and”tradition” cards, usually with a “race” card and the “racist” card (because being anti-whaling is actually racist, apparently) hidden up their sleeve to draw on the nationalist full house.

The meat ends up on store shelves, although most Japanese no longer eat it.

But plenty of noisy individuals will buy into the “It’s Japan’s sovereign right” argument.  Failing that, they will argue that “fish stocks are at dangerously low levels because the whales are eating them all”.

Officials, including Abe, have long said their ultimate goal is the resumption of commercial whaling – a pledge Abe repeated in a message read at the pre-departure ceremony.

Maybe the “research” is “Just how far can we flout the ICJ ruling?”  This is clearly  a pilot program to resume commercial whaling in Antarctic waters.  (And just how old is this so-called “tradition”?)

Australia and key Japanese ally the United States both opposed the hunt.

“We believe that all of Japan’s primary research objectives can be met through non-lethal activities and continue to oppose their scientific whaling programs,” said Russell F. Smith, the U.S. commissioner to the IWC.

Environmental activists also condemned the move.

“It is completely unacceptable for the Japanese government to ignore the International Court of Justice,” said Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, in a statement.

This is the same Japanese government that finds China’s flouting of an ICJ decision completely unacceptable.

“This is not ‘scientific research,’ this is straight up commercial whaling.”

You are absolutely correct, Mr. Sato.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015.

Article ends

How some people see minke whales.

Kill Something and Eat It

26 Dec

Hi blog.

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.”

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