Subject: Japan: Tokyo persists with bid (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Mon, 17 Nov 1997 13:55:52 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 97 14:44:00 GMT 
Subject: Japan: Tokyo persists with bid

Japan: Tokyo persists with bid to lift whaling ban

  TOKYO, (Nov. 13) IPS - Japan may have lost the latest round in its
quest to have an 11-year-old international moratorium on commercial
whaling lifted, but the country is far from giving up on its
controversial campaign.
   In fact, Japan sees a positive, if modest, step forward in last
month's talks on the issue during the annual meeting of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC), which enforced the ban in
1986 to curb the overhunting of whale populations especially in the
Antarctic Ocean.
   Though the commission voted to uphold the moratorium on whale
fishing in the Antarctic Ocean, Japanese officials are quick to
point out that more members voted for reviewing the ban than at
previous meetings. Twelve of the 32 participants at the IWC meeting
in Monaco voted in favor of an easing of the moratorium, compared
to eight last year.
   "This is a sign of the fact that the whaling issue is being
considered on a sustainable harvesting basis and not the emotional
wrangling that takes over discussions usually," said Nobuyuki Yagi,
head of the whaling division in the Fisheries Agency.
   At the Monaco meeting in late October, Japan requested a catch of
50 minke whales on its coasts, saying stocks of the species have
grown enough over the years to allow sustainable harvesting.
   Japan says small-scale, coastal whaling is vital for its four
traditional coastal whaling communities, which have been hit hard
by the curbs on whaling and are estimated to number some 50,000
families. Tokyo has been lobbying the IWC to acquire special status
for these communities, akin to that of whaling communities in
Alaska and Greenland.
   But the commission rejected the appeal. Sixteen anti-whaling
members that included the U.S., Australia, France and Brazil
maintained that the quota sought by Japan smacked of a resumption
of commercial whaling.
   Of the decision, Yagi said: "The IWC continues to ignore our
requests despite growing scientific evidence that points to the
possibility of a gradual resumption of sustainable whaling. We will
keep on fighting."
   Conservationists argue that the risks in allowing Japan to resume
whaling are too big. Mariko Abe of World Wildlife Fund Japan says
scientific evidence produced by Tokyo does not match those of other
scientists who say concrete data is still hard to produce. "Against
a background of uncertainty we believe he best possible decision
is to continue the ban," she said.
   Still, Yagi indicated that Japan, buoyed by what it hopes may be
a new line of thinking among members, will also continue to push
for a resumption next year of a limited catch of minke whales in
the Southern Ocean above Antarctica, which was declared a sanctuary
in 1994.
   "The latest meeting is cause for optimism," Yagi said. "Japan will
not change its stance for a scientific management basis in IWC
   Under a provision in the IWC's rules that allow countries to issue
permits to take whales for scientific research, Japan is able to
each year harvest hundreds of minke whales, the smallest of the
baleen whales, from Antarctica.
   This practice has come under fire from conservationists who accuse
Tokyo of using "scientific research" as a cloak for commercial
whaling to fill market demand.
   Last month, the IWC issued a resolution urging Japan to stop the
practice, though Tokyo is pressing ahead. On Nov. 11, Greenpeace
said a five-ship fleet, including three catcher boats and a factory
ship for processing whales, left Japan for the Antarctica to do
"scientific whaling."
   "To call this research is an insult to science," Greenpeace
campaigner John Frizzell said in a statement. "This is a fleet
without a scientific mission. The real reason for this voyage is
to provide whale meat to keep the market open in Japan."
   The IWC meeting highlighted a debate between those who think it
best not to tamper with the whaling ban, and those who say limited
commercial whaling may be allowed after some whale populations have
recovered from overexploitation seen in the sixties.
   Japan presented evidence that it said showed the number of minke
whales in the southern ocean to be growing, so that a limited catch
would not endanger stocks.
   In 1995, an international whaling policy paper by the U.S.
estimated the minke population in the southern ocean at some
760,000. In the North Atlantic, populations are estimated to be
around 110,000 animals. Conservative models, reportedly including
one by the IWC itself, have estimated a sustainable harvest level
of at 2,000 minkes annually.
   Between them, Japan and Norway -- a country that has an old whaling
culture and rejects the IWC ban on commercial whaling -- harvest
more than 1,000 whales a year. Norway took more than 500 minkes
from the North Atlantic during this year's whaling season, and
Japan takes some 540 minkes from the Antarctic each year.
   Some critics say the IWC misses the point that many whale species
are recovering from overhunting. Even with a world population of
more than one million minkes, "the IWC still considers them
threatened with extinction", argued Michael de Alessi of the
U.S.-based Centre for Private Conservation.
   "Norway and Japan are maligned for their continued whaling, but
their hunts hardly pose a threat to whale populations," he said in
a published commentary.
   Japan's case does not seem to be aided any by the fact that meat
from "scientific catches" have been sold in its markets. Tokyo
officials have said this did not indicate commercial whaling but
was in keeping with an IWC rule that whales killed for research
purposes should not be wasted.
   The rare meat fetches high prices and is bought by primary schools
for school lunches and some restaurants, where a dish of whale meat
costs some $42 U.S. Conservationists say some whale meat sold in
the market have come from illegal catches by other countries, such
as Norway.  any more for food.
   Changing attitudes are also evident from younger Japanese'
enthusiasm for recently introduced whale-sighting tours.
   Still, the Japanese government's position is supported by some of
its scientists who say the IWC is unfair to nations like Japan and
Norway. Professor Rinristu Kawakami of Kyoto University advised
Japan not to buckle under the IWC, which he argued has been
"overtaken by countries like the U.S. and Britain."