Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Japan To “Re-Assess” Whaling Ban For Their White Elephant Whaling Industry

Japan To Host Special IWC Conference In February to Discuss Whaling Ban
Japanese Whaling Vessel With A Successfully Caught Scientific Research Project

Japan’s announcement to host a special IWC – International Whale Commission – conference this February in order to “re-assess” the population of whales has been met with outrage from activists and anti-whaling nations. Japan leads the pro-whaling block of nations from Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Islands and hopes with their assistance to lift the ban on commercialized whaling. Right now the Japanese Whaling Fleet is playing a cat-and-mouse game in the Southern Ocean with anti-whaling ships lead by Greenpeace and the controversial Sea Shepherd Society. The Sea Shepherd Society has offered $25,000 for the location of the whaling fleet which is believed to be using satellite technology to avoid them. Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd are not expected to co-operate as Greenpeace has criticized the group for apparently going too far in their protest in the past while Sea Shepherd accuses Greenpeace of showboating but doing little else to actually save the whales.

Commercialized whaling has been internationally banned for over twenty years. Whales were near the brink of extinction at the ┬átime the ban was put in place. Iceland and Norway are the only nations that officially ignore the ban. Bowing to threats of economic sanctions from the US, Japan relunctantly accepted the ban but it continues to hunt whales for “scientific research.”. This “scientific research” nets about 800-1000 whales every year. The main target of this research is the more numerous minke whale but other species have been hunted in smaller numbers such as the Sperm, Sei, and Byrd’s whales, and just recently the Fin Whale. This year Japanese whalers plan to hunt at least 50 Fin and Humpback Whales.

A Minke Whale Carcass Is Hauled Away For Scientific Research

After the research is supposedly performed, the whales often end up in restaurants and supermarkets for the scientific perusal of the average consumer.

Like many island nations, Japan has a long history of whaling. They used everything of the whale from the oil, meat, and bone. Commercialized whaling didn’t really develop until late due to Japan’s long period of isolation. It was only after WWII that whale meat became a major part of the the Japanese diet due to overall food shortages following the war. Whale meat became a customary item in children’s lunches. It should be pointed out that at this time, whale meat was not seen as a culinary delicacy in the post-war period but as a substitute source of protein. Basically, it was the poor man’s steak not the rich man’s pate.

The overall demand is not very high for whale meat in Japan nor for whale byproducts. While some old-timers may wax nostaglically on their old school lunches, for others who were alive during that time, whale meat reminds them of poverty. The whalers are trying to create demand rather than supply a demand as the tons of whale meat that has gone unsold over the past few years shows. Precious whale meat was also discovered in pet food in 2003 by Environmental Investigation Agency; no doubt a last ditch effort to unload unsold whale meat.

A Whaling Ship From Ayukawa In Northern Japan

Japanese whalers maintain that hunting whales has been a long cultural tradition. This is true but it has never been such an integral part of Japanese culture that its absence would cause any irrepairable if even visible damage. In addition, the overall Japanese economy is hardly dependent on the industry.

Japanese whalers and other whaling nations contend that part of their purpose for whaling is that whales deplete fishing stocks. However the species of whales mainly collected for Japanese scientific research, the minke of the North Pacific and Antartic regions, show their consumption consists almost entirely of krill and not fish. Over-fishing is the main culprit behind dwindling fish stocks not scapegoatish whales. When Japanese whalers maintain this opinion, it simply furthers the opinion that their research is useless as they themselves pay no attention to the results. The concept of culling the herds is not very applicable in this case as it would be with deer and caribou who lack a natural predator and have more-limited space in which to live.

Japan, Iceland, Norway, and other pro-whaling nations have a hard row to hoe against such widespread condemnation of whaling. History is the main stumbling block for these nations to overcome in order to get the ban lifted. One has only to look at the history of whaling and its effect on the overall species to see why measures are so strict. Mankind has constantly shown itself to be carelessly ruthless in the eradication or near-extinction of many species that were once numerous. A mere twenty years have passed since the international ban on whaling was put in place. Twenty years seems a relatively short time for a species that had been hunted with such fierce efficiency in just the last two centuries alone to make such an amazing recovery that it now requires culling. Apparently the significant numbers killed every year from hunting, scientific research, and accidents are not enough.

A Covered-Up Harpoon-Gun

Whalers pushed the whales to the brink of extinction only a few decades ago. What makes pro-whaling nations think anyone will trust them to only hunt their quota and not do the same thing again that they did before? With factory ships that can process their catches at sea away from prying eyes in remote areas, it makes whaling more difficult to manage than land-based hunting. Pro-whaling nations barely hold back now under the ban. How will they behave without the ban with such an indignant attitude?

Furthermore, the whaling industry today seems to resemble another rare species: a white elephant. Whaling is far more expensive to maintain compared to the profit attainable. Commericialized whaling for Japan would only result in more unsold whale meat and fat guilt-ridden pets. Some whale meat has even been found to be contaminated by pollutants that are harmful to pregnant women and children. So much for children’s lunchboxes – the minke whale meat while leaner and without the contamination is typically more expensive and less likely to be put in children’s lunches on a large scale. The Japanese government has been wasting a significant amount of money on their white elephant industry through IWC political-wrangling and vainly trying to promote the image of whale meat to the general public particularly to the youth who have no memories of leaner times when abundant whale meat symbolized poverty. So far it has been money ill-spent as the whale fleet rushes off to replenish the stock of whale meat that has succumbed to the consumption of freezer-burn rather than voracious consumer demand.

There’s more money to be had in whale-watching these days than whale-hunting. A clever whaler would trade in his harpoon-gun for a telescope and take whale-photo-hunters on a more profitable venture without shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars on sophisticated equipment just to avoid those pesky anti-whaling groups.

A Factory Ship Now Used As A Musuem But Seemingly Ready To Sail If The Ban Is Lifted

February 1, 2007 Posted by | ayukawa, Blogroll, environment, greenpeace, IWC, japan, life, news, sea shepard, tokyo, whales, whaling | 6 Comments