Subject: DNA & Pirate whaling

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Mon, 23 May 1994 09:33:47

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Subject: DNA & Pirate whaling
From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET" 22-MAY-1994 22:42:11.79
Subj:	Japanese Whale Meat Sources.
Date:         Sun, 22 May 1994 23:30:09 BST
Reply-To:     Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Sender:       Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Comments:     Warning -- original Sender: tag was rbaird@SOL.UVIC.CA
From:         Richard McLanaghan <>
Subject:      Japanese Whale Meat Sources.
To:           Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Two U.S. researchers have found that whale meat on sale in
Japan's supermarkets originates in the Antarctic, the North
Atlantic and the North Pacific.
In a report presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling
Commission (IWC), meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Professor Scott
Baker - now at the University of Auckland, New Zealand - and
Dr Steve Palumbi of the University of Hawaii, give evidence
that samples of skin, blubber and meat  they purchased
throughout the main island of Japan came from humpback whales,
fin whales, as well as from minke whales as they expected.
Using modern methods of DNA analysis - as now used widely in
crime detection and technically called 'mitochrondial DNA
sequencing' - the researchers were able to compare samples they
purchased with 'type' specimens of various species from many
locations, held in laboratories worldwide.Their studies were
funded and otherwise supported by Earthtrust (a private
campaigning group based in Hawaii) and the U.S. National
Science Foundation.
Throughout the current legal pause in commercial whaling the
Japanese industry has been encouraged by the Government to
kill hundreds of minke whales every year as scientific
'samples'. Under IWC rules these samples must not be 'wasted',
so the meat is auctioned in Tokyo as soon as the factory ship
returns to base in the each spring. But Baker and Palumbi  found that
of the samples they identified as from minke whales, eight
came from the Antarctic but the ninth was from the North
North Atlantic minke whales are caught legally by Greenlanders
under special 'aboriginal subsistence' whaling rules but
products from them are only supposed to be consumed locally.
Norway has also in 1993 begun 'outlaw' whaling under a
loophole in the international agreement that created the IWC;
before that Norway's continuing operations were limited to
'scientific sampling'. The Norwegian Government now bans
export, but dealers were last year caught trying to smuggle
whale meat out by air, from Oslo to Seoul, it is thought en
route to Japan. It is eight years since whalers in Iceland
legally killed minke whales and unlikely that the frozen whale
sashimi now being sold in Japan could be that old.
Of the fin whale samples one appeared to be from the North
Atlantic but one or more of the other three might have come
from elsewhere. Some fin whales are legally killed for
'subsistence' by Greenlanders, but 'scientific' whaling by
Iceland for fin whales continued untilI 1989; half of that
production was allowed for export to the Japanese market.
Baker and Palumbi report that the single sample they
identified as from a humpback was from the North Pacific
populations of this species. There has been no legal hunting
of humpbacks in the Pacific since the 1960s.
Interviewed in Puerto Vallarta Dr Baker said: "It was hard for
us to determine the legality or illegality of these
commodities because of the complete lack of commercial
labelling system giving the species, the processing date and
the production location. Not only is such a system needed while
any whaling continues, it is also essential to establish an
internationally controlled and accessible archive of tissue
specimens from every whale killed, for whatever purpose and by
whatever means,  including those accidentally drowned in
fishing gear, the meat from which reaches the markets of
Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.
A water-tight international inspection scheme for any future
whaling will be one of the main topics of discussion at the
meeting of the IWC. Revelations by the Russian Government
about wholesale falsification of catch information by the
Soviet authorities in the 1960s and 1970s have highlighted
the ease with which whalers can cheat their way round all the
IWC's rules.
Said Dr Sidney Holt, Scientific Adviser to the International
Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), who has attended IWC meetings
since 1960: "We are totally opposed to commercial whaling on
cruelty grounds. But there are other practical reasons for
firm opposition. National and international authorities have
never paid more than faint lip-service to seriously enforcing
regulations. This industry is corrupt and out of control, and
there are no signs of a change of attitude.We now have one big
hope: that the Commission will this year agree to declare the
entire Southern Ocean south of the "roaring forties",
including Antarctic waters, as a sanctuary for whales.
"Ten nations have formally proposed the sanctuary; it would
protect 90% of the world's remaining whales - especially the
only one that is still numerous, the small minke whale, which
the Japanese whalers are desperate to get their hands on."
Approval of the sanctuary as a binding decision requires a
three-quarters majority vote. Although only one IWC member  -
Japan - wants to go commercial whaling their proposal is
jeopardised by  financial 'inducements' given by Japan to four
Caribbean countries to join with the two whaling countries in
blocking the proposal.
For further information contact: Sidney Holt
                                 Vassili Papastavrou
                                 Marriott Hotel
                                 Puerto Vallarta