Subject: IWC:US government position on Japanese whale proposals (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Sat, 13 Nov 1999 08:06:24 -0500 (EST)

Below are the US government's comments to Japan on its whale proposals:


Mr. Isao Nakasu
Director General,
Fisheries Agency of Japan
2-1, 1-Chome Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100, Japan

Fax: 011-81-3-3591-5824

Dear Mr. Nakasu,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on draft proposals of the
government of Japan to downlist the Okhotsk Sea/West Pacific stock of minke
whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and the North Pacific Eastern stock of
gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) from Appendix I to Appendix II of the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora (CITES).  We also understand that you will also be offering a
proposal to downlist the Southern Hemisphere stock of minke whales
(Balaenoptera acutorostrata) from Appendix I to Appendix II.

As a range State for all three of these whale populations, including the
Southern Hemisphere stock of minke whales which occur in the Exclusive
Economic Zone around American Samoa, the United States strongly opposes
these proposals for a number of reasons.

As you know, the United States opposes the downlisting of any species or
population of whales subject to the International Whaling Commission (IWC)
moratorium on commercial whaling. We continue to believe that it is
inappropriate to consider these species for downlisting until the IWC
completes the revision of its management regime in order to bring all
whaling under effective IWC control.

The United States believes that CITES should honor the request for
assistance in enforcing the moratorium which the IWC communicated to CITES
in a resolution passed at the Special Meeting of the IWC in Tokyo,
December, 1978.  This request was answered by the CITES Parties in
Resolution Conf. 2.9 (*Trade in Certain Species and Stocks of Whales
Protected by the International Whaling Commission from Commercial Whaling*)
which calls on the Parties to *agree not to issue any import or export
permit or certificate* for introduction from the sea under CITES for
primarily commercial purposes *for any specimen of a species or stock
protected from commercial whaling by the International Convention for the
Regulation of Whaling.*  Japan states in their draft proposal that it is
not appropriate to take into account Resolution Conf. 2.9 when considering
this proposal to downlist the Okhotsk Sea/West Pacific stock of minke
whales.  The United States does not agree.  These resolutions reflect the
strong cooperative relationship between the IWC and CITES, whereby CITES
has agreed to reflect IWC decisions in its Appendices.

Recent actions by both CITES and the IWC have reinforced this relationship.
CITES Resolution Conf. 2.9 was overwhelmingly reaffirmed by a vote of the
10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 1997.  At its 51st Annual
Meeting in May, 1999, the IWC overwhelmingly passed a resolution
(IWC/51/43) that directs the IWC Secretariat to advise the CITES Conference
of the Parties that the revised management regime has not been completed
and that zero catch limits are still in force for species of whales which
are managed by the Commission.  We note that in Section 3.4 of your
proposal, *Actual or potential trade impacts,* you state that minke whales
stocks will not be threatened by trade if certain regulatory steps are
taken.  In points (b) through (d), you describe the very elements of the
Revised Management Scheme of the IWC that are necessary to ensure the
conservation of whale stocks.

Unfortunately, these elements, as part of a Revised Management Scheme, have
not yet been adopted by the IWC.  Later in this section, you assert that it
is widely recognized that prohibition of utilization of highly abundant
wild species has resulted in increased illegal trade.  The United States
disagrees with this premise and would appreciate copies of any studies
verifying this assertion.

The underlying assumption in the downlisting proposal for these populations
of minke whales and gray whales is that the differences within species are
discrete, occur in all individuals and can be readily differentiated by
forensic DNA methods.  This is not the case, as the experts who have
developed these methods will attest.  While there are clear markers which
differentiate species, finding forensic markers for all individuals within
a population or stock is much more problematic.  It is usually possible
only when the population distinctiveness approaches that of species, such
as the minke whales of the Sea of Japan-East China Sea.

Moreover, the use of Japanese and Norwegian DNA registers that are not
available for scrutiny by other whale DNA experts, is counter to all
principles of forensic identification.  Only when there is a consensus on
DNA markers, tested against adequate sample sizes of the whale stocks in
question, could they be utilized for verification purposes. Such research
may show significant evolutionary units within some stocks, and it may also
show significant gene flow between stocks making forensic identification of
a meat sample to a particular stock impossible.

Regarding the eastern North Pacific stock of grey whales, also referred to
as California grey whales, the taking of this stock is restricted to
aboriginal people according to the IWC Schedule. The meat and products are
to be used by them  exclusively for local consumption.  At the present
time, aboriginal people from the Russian Republic and the United States
take gray whales from this population.  The United States has agreements in
place with aboriginal people to insure that use of the meat complies with
the requirements of the IWC and relevant domestic laws. Aboriginal use of
whale meat does not involve commercial use or international trade.
Consequently, Japan*s proposal goes far beyond what is currently permitted
by the IWC.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to comment on your draft proposals.
We urge you, in light of our concerns and, as a Party to both CITES and the
International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, to honor CITES
Resolution Conf. 2.9 and IWC Resolution IWC/51.43, and therefore to
reconsider your decision to submit these  proposals.

We hope and expect that we can continue to work with you to exchange views
on these important matters in the future.


<signed: October 29, 1999>
Marshall Jones
Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
1825 Shady Creek Court
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2