Save the whales – again

By Judy Ann Newton_Harzer

Images copyright Greenpeace

Diving the Cumberland

War is defined as ‘˜a state of conflict between different nations, states, or armed groups, a sustained contest between rivals or campaign against something undesirable.’ Given those parameters, no one can dispute that the whaling issue has been a long and bloody Since the whaling moratorium was first introduced by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986, most of the skirmishes have been won by the anti-whaling forces. And year after year, the pro-whaling militia has garnered strength by enlisting the support of smaller nations with methods that have created even more hostility on the field of battle. For the last 18 years the conflict has remained status quo. The pro-whaling nations spearheaded by Japan would charge and each assault was defended by the anti-whaling nations headed by New Zealand and Australia. No ground was gained and no ground was lost, but the battles continued to rage with no prospect of resolution. All of this is changing now as the pro-whaling nations have amassed a sufficient army to change the tide of the war. And unless there are some dramatic changes in ethics and tactics on both sides, the battle may be lost for the whales. Japan has continually increased the number and species of whales taken and sells the meat of the dead whales to fund their research programme. Anti-whaling countries and environmental groups say that the Japanese research whaling scheme is a loophole and ‘a thinly disguised commercial venture.’ It also seems to be a scheme with very few returns, both scientifically and financially. In May 2006 the Japanese research expedition returned with 60 slaughtered minke whales, the maximum allowable under the programme. The report that resulted from that killing effort revealed that whales eat fish. True! Japan’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry declared the research found that minkes fed on sand eels and sardines and that as much as 106kg of fish had been found in the stomach of one whale! Japan explained that the harvest of 60 minke whales was necessary to ‘study the impact of the mammals’ feeding on fish stocks.’ Authorities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reconfirmed their opposition to Japan’s lethal research programme and that it ‘˜raises questions of scientific validity.’ In the last 19 years, there have been more than 25 individual resolutions demanding the end of lethal scientific research. On 18 June 2006, the first day of this year’s annual International Whaling Commission conference in St Kitts and Nevis, Japan answered those demands by announcing that it would continue its scientific whaling programme, increase the catch, increase the species and increase its range. Since 1987, Japan has killed nearly 8,000 whales. This year’s catch so far included more than 930 minke whales and 10 endangered fin whales. During the North Pacific whaling season, 220 minke, 50 Bryde’s, 100 sei and 10 sperm whales will be caught and filleted. Many observers and conservationists query the need for such an annual slaughter and why, with such staunch opposition, does Japan continue its press for commercialized whaling. Japan upholds that whaling is a national tradition and is a vital component of Japanese food culture. However, in January 2006, a scathing report revealed that the Japanese are actually turning away from whale meat. Whether it is the cost or the stigma that is attached to whaling, Japanese consumption is at low ebb while stockpiles of frozen whale meat have been on the rise since 1998. Japanese authorities have attempted to debunk this claim, but statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries attest that whale meat stocks have doubled in 10 years. Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research declared 5969 tons of whale meat stockpiled as of April 2006 – the highest inventory since 1989. Statistics regarding the annual consumption of whale meat show a decrease to 30 grams (one ounce) per person, or one carving of sashimi. That is a drastic decline from the 1980’s average of 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) per person. To sum it up: catch on the increase, waste on the increase, stockpiles on the increase and consumption on the decrease. And that totals up to a big slap in the cultural tradition wallet to the one billion yen (8.8 million dollars) in government subsidies paid to the whaling industry annually!

Of Allies and Alliances: The only way to overturn the moratorium is with a ¾ majority vote at the annual International Whaling Commission conference. For 18 years, Japan has gone to extreme – and ethically questionable – means to increase their allies in the bid to overturn the whaling moratorium. Year after year accusations of vote buying have been launched against Japan and its pro-whaling alliance. On 18 July 2001 the senior official of the Fisheries Agency of Japan, Maseyuku Komatsu, admitted that Japan had been using overseas aid to ensure the voting support at the IWC conference. Nations big and small, some island nations and some totally landlocked countries have fallen to the tantalizing come-hither of selling their vote for financial remuneration and aide. Most shockingly have been the recent Japanese alliance converts of Palau, Kiribati, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Nauru, Nicaragua, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia  and a great portion of the Caribbean islands.  New nations that added to the list of Japan’s prostitutes this year included Cambodia and the Marshall Islands. Once again, into the breach: On the eve of the opening volleys of the conference, Japan smugly launched a threat  ‘˜to use its pro-whaling smaller majority to some issues that are vital to whale conservation and welfare from the agenda.’

Voting issue 1:  Japan moved that any reference for discussion on conservation of small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) be struck from the agenda. In a move intended to flex the muscle of the pro-whaling axis, the pro-whaling nations were slapped down by a vote of 32 votes to 30.

Voting issue 2:  Japan calls for secret ballots. Japan has long contended that some nations are intimidated and penalized for their pro-whaling votes with boycotts in the home nations. Japan felt assured, as it always has, that a secret ballot would be in their favour to secure the necessary votes to assure a win on the major issues. By a vote of 33 to 30, transparency in voting was protected.

Voting issue 3: Japan requests an exemption to the moratorium on commercial whaling allowing them to hunt 150 minke whales and 150 Brydes whales in Japan’s territorial waters. In a vote that was closer than ever -“ and too close for comfort-“ the request failed by a vote of 31 to 30 with 4 abstentions.

Voting issue 4:  A resolution to dissolve the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary failed with a resounding 33 to 28 vote.

Voting issue 5: A resolution regarding safety aboard vessels while involved in whaling or research-related actions passed by consensus with reservation from St Kitts and Nevis.

Voting issue 6:  ‘˜The St. Kitts Declaration’, in short verse, states after 14-years of failed negotiations, the ‘˜commissioners expressed their concern that the IWC has failed to meet its obligations under the terms of the ICRW’ (International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling) and that ‘the moratorium, which was clearly intended as a temporary measure, is no longer necessary.’ In a stunning blow to conservationists and anti-whaling nations, the vote passed by 33 to 32. The response to the victory was sudden and ribald. Cheers, applause and slaps on the back were let loose while a stunned anti-whaling audience sat in awe. While the declaration was a non-binding document proposed by 30 pro-whaling IWC members, it does declare support for the pro-whaling agenda and intimates that the IWC will collapse if the moratorium is not overturned. What it does not propose is any alternative course of action for the IWC other than dissolving the moratorium.  (To read the complete text of the St Kitts and Nevis Declaration go to the IWC website at


Final Volleys: As with every IWC Conference, the spears and arrows were slung rapid-fire. Japan attempted to block votes and discussions regarding whale watching, whale killing methods and other ‘welfare’ issues. But with a stinging report just released about the inhumane methods of slaughter by Japanese factory ships still fresh on everyone’s minds, it is no wonder that the Japanese delegation wished to side-step this issue completely. Japanese commissioner Minoru Morimoto said ‘These are outside the competence of the IWC and non-essential, while leaving essential issues, such as proper management of whale stocks, unsolved.’ When asked for comment regarding the victory of the St Kitts & Nevis Declaration, he responded ‘The road ahead for normalization is still long but the direction of the wind has changed. We hope to further strengthen the unity.’

Parting shots: One of the benefits of writing for a magazine is that you have the opportunity to voice your opinion on occasion – as long as the managing editor likes what you say. Having been in attendance at many IWC conferences does not make me a pro on the subject, but you don’t have to be a military strategist to see that the tide of this war is turning. Since the 53rd IWC Conference in London in 2001, Japan’s delegation has been threatening to pull out of the IWC and establish its own whaling management commission. In the opening session of the 54th meeting in Sorrento, Italy, I was present when Mr Morimoto warned that Japan had come to the ‘end of its patience’ regarding the moratorium and again threatened to withdraw from the IWC if a return to commercial whaling was not to be realized by the 57th annual meeting in 2005. At the conclusion of the 2006 conference, Japan announced that it would begin efforts outside of the IWC to advance the process of ‘normalization’ for commercial whaling. Meetings were already underway behind closed doors in St Kitts and a full-scale meeting of pro-whaling interests could take place as early as January in Tokyo. For years we have all watched with nothing more than disdain and criticism as Japan bought votes, overtly whaled within the South Ocean Sanctuary and contravened the principles on which the IWC is based and structured. So why are we surprised that the pro-whaling axis has finally gained the upper hand? Once victory is within sight, do not expect a retreat or a return to the status quo. Admonishment has failed. Censure has failed. The whaling activists know that the IWC and the collective member nations will not really do anything that will serve as anything more than a slap on the wrist. If all is fair in war, then it is time that other member nations may have to adopt the techniques of the Japanese. If buying votes to insure the failure of the moratorium will work, then buying votes to insure the survival of the moratorium can work just as well. Conservation-minded citizens of the world have already let their voices be heard. CDS and CDNN (Cyber Diver News Network visit

) launched a boycott against the Republic of Palau when it allied with Japan at the IWC in 2002. By November 2005 CDS estimated that the boycott has cost Palau in excess of $17 million US in lost tourism revenue. The likewise success of boycotts against Caribbean nations has also dented their governmental coffers.

Newswire polls taken the week of the June 16-20, 2006 IWC Conference asked readers, ‘Should the international ban on whaling be lifted?’ 93% of the respondents said ‘NO’ while 7% voted ‘YES.’ In Australia, the poll asked ‘Should PM John Howard demand an end to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean?’  91% responded ‘YES’, 8% voted ‘NO’ and 1% were undecided. The issue of whaling is a battle and the meek shall not inherit the earth in this war. But there is one thing that we can all agree on. Joji Morishita, spokesman for the Japanese delegation, said the Japanese were pleased it was not a secret ballot. ‘Japan will remember which countries supported this proposal and which countries said no,’ he said. Yes, we will ALL remember who said Yes and who said No.

With special thanks to Greenpeace for their generosity with photographs.

The World is Watching: Dateline 17 June 2006 – A report is released on the scientific analysis of Japanese whale hunt video footage proving that Japan’s whaling methods are contrary to the humane manner prescribed by the IWC. The report found that the video shows: • More than 80% of whales are not killed instantly once harpooned. This is due, the report states, to the lack of ability of harpoon gunners to hit the area close to the whale’s brain •  Once harpooned, whales are often alive as they are winched into the hunting ship with the harpoon embedded into their flesh, causing severe suffering. • Whales that are winched in alive often don’t die from the blow of the harpoon, but die of suffocation, with their blow holes forced under water by the process of winching them in. • Whales that are not killed instantly by the harpoon may struggle from 10 to 35 minutes before dying, exhibiting signs of suffering during this period

Moments in time from the IWC: 18 July 2001:  Fisheries ministry head Maseyuku Komatsu referred to minke whales, which Japan is allowed to catch under a scientific research programme, as ‘cockroaches of the oceans.’ 17 July 2001:  ‘Japan does not have military power, unlike the United States and Australia,’ Komatsu said.  ‘Japanese means are simply diplomatic communication and overseas development aid. So in order to get appreciation of Japan’s position, that is natural we must resort to those two major tools’. 2004: ‘In Japan we have pet dogs. But we don’t tell the Koreans to stop eating dogs. Nor should people tell us to stop eating whales.’ Yoshimasa Hayashi.

June 2006: ‘There are enough whales for those who want to watch them and for those who want to eat them,’ Morishita said in a briefing paper. ‘The situation is not different from a farm tour with a BBQ lunch.’ June 2006: ‘We will also continue our whale research activities in the Antarctic.’ Japan’s commissioner Minoru Morimoto.

(Have your vote:


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2006 IWC Member Nations  (70) Year of Adherence and Voting Record

Contracting Nation                   Year of Adherence        Vote2 Secret Ballot   Vote 5 St Kitts Resolution

Antigua & Barbuda 21/07/82 Yes Yes

Argentina  18/05/60  No  No

Australia  0/11/48  No  No

Austria  20/05/94  No  No

Belgium 15/07/04 No No

Belize 17/06/03 No No

Benin  26/04/02  Yes  Yes

Brazil  04/01/74  No  No

Cambodia  01/06/06  Yes  Yes

Cameroon  14/06/05  Yes  Yes

Chile  06/07/79  No  No

People’s Republic of China  24/09/80  Yes  Abstain

Costa Rica  24/07/81  No voting status

Côte d’Ivoire  08/07/04  Yes  Yes

Czech Republic  26/01/05  No  No

Denmark  23/05/50  No  Yes

Dominica  18/06/92  Yes  Yes

Finland 23/02/83 No No

France  03/12/48  No  No

Gabon  08/05/02  Yes  Yes

The Gambia  17/05/05  Yes  Yes

Germany  02/07/82  No  No

Grenada  07/04/93  Yes  Yes

Guatemala  16/05/06  Absent  Absent

Republic of Guinea  21/06/00  Yes  Yes

Hungary  01/05/04  No  No

Iceland  10/10/02  Yes  Yes

India  09/03/81  No  No

Ireland  02/01/85  No  No

Israel  07/06/06  No  No

Italy  06/02/98  No  No

Japan  21/04/51  Yes  Yes

Kenya  02/12/81  No voting status

Kiribati  28/12/04  Yes  Yes

Luxembourg  10/06/05  No  No

Republic of Korea  29/12/78  Yes  Yes

Mali  17/08/04  Yes  Yes

Republic of the Marshall Islands  01/06/06  Yes  Yes

Mauritania  23/12/03  Yes  Yes

Mexico  30/06/49  No  No

Monaco  15/03/82  No  No

Mongolia  16/05/02  Yes  Yes

Morocco  12/02/01  Yes  Yes

Nauru  15/06/05  Yes  Yes

Netherlands  14/06/77  No  No

New Zealand  15/06/76  No  No

Nicaragua  05/06/03  Yes  Yes

Norway  03/03/48  Yes  Yes

Oman  15/07/80  No  No

Republic of Palau  08/05/02  Yes  Yes

Panama  12/06/01  No  No

Peru  18/06/79  No voting status

Portugal  14/05/02  No  No

Russian Federation  10/11/48  Yes  Yes

San Marino  16/04/02  No  No

St Kitts and Nevis  24/06/92  Yes  Yes

St Lucia  29/06/81  Yes  Yes

St Vincent & The Grenadines  22/07/81  Yes  Yes

Senegal  15/07/82  Absent  Yes

Slovak Republic  22/03/05  No  No

Solomon Islands  10/05/93  Abstain  Yes

South Africa  10/11/48  No  No

Spain  06/07/79  No  No

Suriname  15/07/04  Yes  Yes

Sweden  15/06/79  No  No

Switzerland  29/05/80  No  No

Togo  15/06/05  Absent  Yes

Tuvalu  30/06/04  Yes  Yes

UK  10/11/48  No  No

USA  10/11/48  No  No

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