ECO Newsletter
Issue #1: July 23, 2001

Whale illustrations donated by Larry Foster Table of contents:


Flacking for Whales

When the IWC came together for its annual meeting in July 2000, Alan Macnow swung into action.

Macnow's New York-based PR firm, Tele-Press Associates (TPA), has defended the Japanese whaling and fishing industry for more than two decades, but his vigorous campaign against an initiative to create a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific may have reached new lows of unethical behavior. As executive director of a hastily-concocted coalition called "Friends of Whalers," he lashed out at targets including elected officials in New Zealand and Australia.

"Your country is trying to make all of the world's waters a whale sanctuary," Macnow complained in a letter addressed to NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark that was published in one of the country's leading newspapers.

"What we're saying is if whales increase in abundance, there shouldn't be any reason not to utilize them in order to keep their populations in balance with the fish population," Macnow told a journalist from The Australian.

It is an argument rejected by Australian government scientists. "There is no evidence that whale populations have direct impacts on commercial fish stocks," said Environment Australia, the government environmental agency. "Differences in feeding behavior and migration patterns largely preclude direct competition between whales and fisheries in the Southern Pacific Ocean," they wrote in a report assessing the claims by the whaling industry.

In Adelaide, Australia, Macnow also spent approximately $20K to broadcast a pro-whaling TV ad on all three commercial Adelaide television stations during the week of the conference. "It's broken. The IWC is broken, unable and unwilling to do its job "the advertisement warned in dire tones, claiming that IWC member countries were "caving in to anti-whaling, fund-raising groups" and that "the IWC holds science in contempt."

These self-serving statements would of course have drawn a skeptical reception if the ads had correctly identified the whaling industry itself as the sponsor of the ads, but Macnow had that under control. Under Australia's Broadcasting Services Act, political TV advertisements are required to include a disclaimer which identifies the sponsor, but Macnow's ads said, "Authorized by Andrew Tibault for the Natural Resources Study Center, Westport, Connecticut."

Who exactly is the Natural Resources Study Center? Questioned by a journalist, Macnow said that the NRSC was one of his clients. But when PR Watch asked where NRST could be contacted, he gave a vague response. "They are a sustainable-use group in Connecticut," he said. Pressed further to provide a contact name and phone number, he turned evasive. "You can look them up in the phone book," he tersely suggested.

Connecticut phone books, however, have no listing for the group. Nor is NRSC listed with the US IRS as a nonprofit organization. Nor are they registered with the Secretary of State on the Connecticut State Registration, where nonprofits are required to list their street address and office bearers.

Asked a second time for a contact, Macnow once more declined. "I'm afraid not," he said, claiming that he "didn't want them attacked by the vicious anti-whaling groups. If you want to find them, do the research to find them."

Asked whether they actually exist, Macnow tentatively said, "I think so." Do they have an office? "Yeah," he said after a pause. Paid staff? "Yes, I get checks from them"

Macnow's $20K advertising campaign for a group that doesn't exist neatly explained a loophole in Australian law. If he had been advertising a product, the ad would fall under the jurisdiction of the Trade Practices Act, which provides for fines of up to $120,000 if a company is found guilty of false and misleading advertising.

Reports filed by TPA with the US Dept. of Justice reveal that in the 18 months prior to mid-June, 1999, TPA earned more than $180K for advising and representing the Japanese Whaling Association in the US. For the two years prior to mid-1999, TPA also earned more than $250K representing the Japan Fisheries Association, of which the JWA is a member organization.
- Bob Burton, published by PR Watch, March 2001


Iceland's Convention-Busting Ploy

Iceland's ploy to rejoin the IWC only if the Commission accepts their taking a reservation on the moratorium decision is likely to dominate today's opening Plenary session.

This dangerous proposal is out of step with the practices of the IWC and numerous other fisheries and management Conventions. The Commission should soundly reject it. Accommodating Iceland's request would set a dangerous precedent and catapult the Commission into murky and treacherous waters.

Under Article V of the Convention, Contracting Governments must present to the Commission on objection to any amendment prior to the expiration of a 90-day period after notification of an IWC decision. Absent such objection, the amendment becomes effective and the contracting governments are bound to accept it. Iceland did not file an objection to the 1982 moratorium decision and ten years later walked out of the Commission (see Iceland, page 4).

But a faction of the Icelandic government remains steadfastly intent on getting back into the whale-killing business and views this ploy as their best hope to quickly resume commercial whaling. Icelandic government spokesmen have recently stated that they intend to run population numbers and allocate themselves a quota to kill minke and even fin whales.

There is no debate as to whether Iceland can rejoin the Commission; any nation can. Not with Convention-busting conditions, however.

If Iceland succeeds in pulling this fast one on the Commission, it would have a crippling effect on the Commission's ability to make any binding decisions. Member governments could simply quit the IWC and later rejoin with reservations regarding any measure they choose to ignore. And it could also provide a pathway to evade, ignore, and undermine other international conventions as well.

Six IWC members (The United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Germany, and the United States) quickly went on record with the Commission in opposition to Iceland's gambit. There are solid legal arguments for the Commission to reject it.

Meanwhile, ECO moles overheard several whaling nation delegates discussing how to lure the Plenary Session into a prolonged procedural wrangle that would tie the IWC in knots. How better to immobilize the Commission and then berate it for not being able to move.

ECO urges that Commissioners not fall into that trap.


Yen Diplomacy: Bribes, Lies, and Audiotape

Japan's top international fisheries official last week admitted that his country has been using development aid to win pro-whaling votes of several small nations at the IWC.

In a radio interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) taped in April and aired 18 July, Masayuki Komatsu, international director of the Japanese Fisheries Agency, stated that there is "nothing wrong" with using Overseas Development Aid (ODA) to buy votes at the IWC. Said Komatsu in the interview with ABC Tokyo correspondent Mark Sinkin:

"Japan does not have a military power. Unlike U.S. and Australia, you may dispatch your military power to East Timor. That is not the case of Japan. Japanese means is simply diplomatic communication and ODAs. So, in order to get appreciation of Japan's position, of course you know that is natural that we must do, result on those two major truths. So, I think there is nothing wrong."

Komatsu, Japan's alternate whaling commissioner, confirmed a practice that Japan has been assiduously pursuing for two decades, ever since three-quarters majorities of the IWC voted to ban sperm whaling in 1981 and all commercial whaling in 1982. Seeking a one-quarter plus one blocking force, Japan recruited a half dozen small island nations from the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

Tens of millions of dollars of Japanese foreign aid has been poured into St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua, and the Solomon Islands. These tiny nations have slavishly followed Japan's lead year after year, effectively stymieing any major progress of the IWC in critical whale conservation.

Komatsu's frank admission of aid-for-votes touched off alarms in Tokyo. The Japanese government quickly issued a press release denying his statement - and even claiming that Komatsu never gave the interview to the ABC. "After checking with Komatsu, we found that there was no truth to such remarks," stated the 19 July press release, which was titled "Japan Fisheries Head Not Interviewed by ABC Radio in Australia."

"Accusations of bribes and vote buying are false and represent a desperate attempt on the part of Australia and New Zealand to gain support for their sanctuary proposal," the press release quoted Komatsu.

But Radio New Zealand (RNZ) later that day confronted Komatsu with his taped quotes. RNZ reporter Sean Plunket played the ABC interview, then asked, "Was that your voice that you just heard there?"

"I think so," replied Komatsu.

The RNZ interviewer asked Komatsu if "using overseas development aid, or ODA as you call it, is a legitimate way to encourage people to back Japan's views?"

Replied Komatsu: "I think ODA is methodology which is used by all developed countries including New Zealand and Australia and even United States of America, that is to help those countries' particular projects in the particular field of interest, to develop, and by extending that you expect some appreciation for those countries who extended, extended this sort of ODA."


Icelandic Angst: To Whale or Not to Whale ...

For nearly 20 years, Iceland has agonized over whether it should continue whaling. In 1982, shortly after the IWC adopted the ban on commercial whaling, the Icelandic Parliament narrowly voted (28 to 27) to not file an objection to the ban, which went into effect in 1986.

But in 1987 Iceland unilaterally defied the ban by continuing whaling under the guise of "scientific research" - a ploy also used by Japan. That ill-conceived action touched off a massive international boycott campaign against Icelandic fish, the mainstay of Iceland's economy.

Within months, conservation and animal welfare groups had persuaded McDonald's and Burger King and other fast-food chains to cancel all orders for Icelandic cod - a prized, high-quality product used in fish sandwiches. The U.S. threatened to certify Iceland under the Pelly Amendment, an action that could have led to an embargo of Icelandic products.

Suddenly, Iceland's fishing industry had lost its largest, most lucrative markets. The national economy was being crippled. In 1989, the government capitulated, ending three years of outlaw whaling and saving its critical fishing industry, which quickly rebounded with renewed fast-food contracts and even gobbling up sales once made by Norway, which was also under boycott pressure.

In 1991, Iceland hosted the IWC. Intense frustration over the continuing whaling ban compelled the government to walk out of the meeting in Reykjavik - and to declare that it was quitting the IWC in disgust. Ironically, the Icelandic fishing industry set up a large booth at the meeting and openly voiced its opposition to any resumption to whaling.

Now, ten years later, Iceland is launching another assault on the IWC whaling ban, promising more agonies for the whales - and Iceland's fishing industry.


A Whale is a Whale is a Cockroach?!

Japan's outspoken deputy commissioner, Masayuki Komatsu, has made a startling scientific discovery: minke whales are the "cockroaches" of the sea.

In his infamous radio interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Komatsu explained that the small whales are cockroaches "because there are too many, and speed of the whale, swimming so quick."

Komatsu's description evokes images of hordes of voracious whales darting through the dark seas, viciously gobbling all the fish from the nets of Japan's fishing fleets.

But perhaps Japanese consumers might be turned off their high-priced minke steaks if they accepted Komatsu's bizarre view of this highly-evolved animal.


Whalemeat Isn't

ECO is distressed to learn that Japanese whale consumers are so misled that they will even eat a horse in the belief that they are eating gourmet whale steaks.

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) investigators released DNA analysis of "whale meat" bought in Japanese markets revealing that, in fact, consumers may not be getting whale meat at all.

The researchers identified meat from protected humpback, sei, and fin whales, species that the Japanese "research whaling" is not supposed to catch. In fact, humpback whales have been protected by the IWC since the mid-1960s.

Furthermore, many samples of the supposed "whale meat" was revealed to be either from dolphins or horses.

IFAW's Japan representative Naoko Funahashi stated: "This new research finally reveals the truth - that so-called scientific whaling is providing a cover for the illegal trade in endangered species." The research results have been presented to the IWC.

ECO strongly recommends that Japanese consumers say "Whoa!" to the whale meat trade altogether.

» For more about ECO and the IWC, click here!