ECO Newsletter
Issue #3: July 25, 2001

Whale illustrations donated by Larry Foster Table of contents:

Canada's War on Bowhead Whales

Canada was a founding member of the IWC but, in 1982, left the Commission it helped create when the global moratorium on whaling was announced. Canada is now the only developed nation on earth killing great whales without belonging to the IWC. Despite four IWC resolutions adopted in the past five years urging Canada to cease whaling, the Canadian government continues to issue permits to kill highly endangered bowhead whales.

Who turned this once law-abiding nation into a pirate whaler using bogus science to kill an endangered species? According to a new report published by the Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society (CMEPS), the answer is Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. DFO bureaucrats have dogmatically ignored or disputed the research of all independent scientists, relying instead on their own dubious population estimates to justify whaling.

If you would like more information, please contact CMEPS delegate Annelise Sorg at the Novotel Hotel to request a copy of the report titled, Canada's War on Whales: Will the Bowhead Survive? A report on the Canadian government's mismanagement of whales, suppression of science, and hunting quotas on a highly endangered species."

The report is also available on CMEPS's web site:

New Zealand statement about whale watching in Kaikoura
Like a Slight Brush with God

Whale watching is a fantastic industry to be involved in. To take visitors into the natural world of the whales is a real privilege; to witness the joy and excitement whales provide to visitors is difficult to explain in words. The best I can do is to use the words of one of my elders who said, "experiencing a close encounter with a whale is like a slight brush with God."

The International Fund for Animal Welfare report titled Whale Watching 2001 clearly shows that, from an economic perspective, a whale is worth more alive than dead. The report confirms that in 1998 over nine million people were given the opportunity to witness the great mammals in their natural environment, that some 87 countries and overseas territories offer whale watching tours, and that almost 500 communities around the world participate in the whale watching industry. Whale watching is a commercial endeavour with important education, environmental, scientific, and other important socioeconomic benefits, is a US one billion-dollar industry. These results can only be described as fantastic, and clearly reinforce the growing importance of whale watching internationally.

When I consider the economic benefit within my own community the results are no less amazing. Eco-tourism generates over 20 million New Zealand dollars per year and is still growing, provides over one third of the full time jobs within Kaikoura, and provides over 350,000 bed nights per annum; there's no question that whale watching is the main economic driver within my own community of Kaikoura. Since the establishment of whale watching in Kaikoura over 12 years ago, one million visitors have sought this amazing experience. It would be true to say that visitors to Kaikoura before whale watching only got there because they got lost. However, to purely measure economic or even scientific data without considering the cultural values of whales would be a serious failure.

Though the report provides a clear picture of the economic value of whale watching internationally, it fails to capture what I consider the true value of whales and whale watching for communities like Kaikoura, and I'm sure it's equally true for other Pacific island countries like our cousins from Tonga who have been a real inspiration in the Pacific islands for what they have achieved in developing the whale watching industry there. It is important, however, to repeat that to measure economic or even scientific data without considering the cultural value of whales for indigenous people would be a serious failure.

For example, the report is unable to communicate my tribal history that is rich with stories of our relationship with the great mammals of the Pacific, the history that has been passed down orally from one generation to another for over a thousand years. This oral tradition enables us as an indigenous people to relive the great migrations throughout the Pacific Ocean of my ancestors, who were guided and protected by these great mammals.

The report is unable to communicate the sense of identity and pride that whale watching gives our young people. As an indigenous people of the South Pacific, whale watching allows us to share our values, tradition, relationship with these great mammals to all the people of the world. To exercise this indigenous right by nonlethal utilization of whales ensures our cultural values are protected. To me, personally, it is a given that whale watching is now globally a successful industry that represents a type of consumers -- and, as I mentioned before, nine million consumers -- which successfully make optimal utilization of whale resources in a nonlethal way.

I would encourage the IWC to give serious consideration to establishing best practices within the whale watching industry. I believe that such support would be very useful and I'm sure appreciated as a valuable contribution from this organization to the global development of whale watching.

In conclusion, today my people strive to protect the whales not only for economic benefit associated with whale watching but because a living whale reminds us of our link to the past. They provide us with a sense of identity, but, more important, hope for the future.
-Wally Stone, Chief Executive of Whale Watch Kaikoura

South Pacific Sanctuary Dashed

Hopes for the South Pacific Sanctuary were dashed yesterday for the second time in two years, by a vote of 20 Yes, 13 No, with 4 abstentions. Establishing the sanctuary is a Schedule amendment thus requiring a 3/4 majority for passage.

NZ and Australian delegates cited the likelihood that the Southern Hemisphere minke population is far lower than Japan's 760,000 estimate as further scientific rationale for the sanctuary. There may be as few as 260,000 according to recent estimates. Support from the range states was also stronger than a year ago.

But there was no overcoming the Japan/Caribbean/newly-acquired bloc. Yesterday's vote tracked quite closely with last year's 18-11-4 tally. On the plus side, Italy and Argentina joined the pro-sanctuary group. On the negative side, the Rep. of Korea moved to the "No" column. Morocco and Solomon Islands, in supreme acts of independence, chose to abstain. Ireland repeated its abstention, evidently as a lingering artifact of the "Irish Proposal."

Sanctuary Vote
Proposal to Amend the Schedule to establish the South Pacific Sanctuary
Failed 20-13-4
Yes: 20 (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA)
No: 13 (Japan/Caribbean bloc, PR China, Denmark, Rep. of Guinea, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Norway, Panama)
Abstain: 4 (Ireland, Morocco, Oman, Solomon Islands)

Massive Misreporting of Whale Kills By Japan

In a shocking development, a prominent Japanese former executive of Nihon Hogei (Japan Whaling Co.) and director of whaling stations at Ayukawa, Wakkanai, and Taiji has published revelations documenting massive misreporting of Japan's Bryde's and sperm whales from 1950-1987.

The manipulation of records in Japanese coastal whaling operations and other forms of cheating are described in great detail by Mr. I. Kondo in his 2001 book, The Rise and Fall of Japanese Coastal Whaling.

Among the techniques in the cheating scheme were:

  • Stretching the measurements of body length of undersized whales
  • Failing to report the catch of female whales in 1972 when such catches were set by sex, or misreporting females as male
  • In 1950-1955, converting undersized sperm whales into fewer larger whales, and
  • wining and dining international observers at remote locations while whales were illegally processed.

Kondo also provides true catch statistics showing systematic and large-scale underreporting of Bryde's whale kills off Japan's Bonin Islands. During a seven year period from 1981-1988 Japan reported Bryde's kills in that area totaling 2,659, whereas the true kill was 4,162. Thus more than 1,500 Bryde's whales were killed yet not reported to the IWC during this one period in a single area.

Heretofore Japan has dismissed claims of cheating as baseless. However, Mr. Kondo was a Japanese whale company employee and was clearly in a position to see how the deception was carried out.

The IWC Scientific Committee should be required to take these illegal catches into account in analyzing the status of relevant whale populations.

Meanwhile, how does Japan expect anyone to believe that a Revised Management Scheme could ever be honestly implemented in view of this long pattern of cheating and deception?

We're waiting for answers.

Remembering Whale Activist Barbara Britten

This week would have marked Barbara Britten's 78th birthday. She passed away over the winter and will be missed by all of us. Barbara was a dedicated fighter for cetaceans. She represented the American Cetacean Society as its Washington rep for many years. She served on the US Delegation to the IWC and attended many of the IWC meetings worldwide. She was a fastidious editor making sure the Whale Watcher publication of the ACS had no spelling, grammatical, or factual errors. She also wrote the "Washington Watch" column for that journal. She was gracious, polite, and an accomplished pianist but also as stubborn as a Norwegian (née Hagen) can sometimes be.

My fondest memory of Barbara was her kindness towards me as a rookie environmentalist. In 1979 when I started out on these issues representing John Denver and the Windstar Foundation, Barbara helped me every step of the way. She introduced me around, taught me the DC subway system and most importantly taught me how to get around the US Department of Commerce Building without having to leave bread crumbs. In short she was my much needed compass.

In Barbara's memory lets look around and be a compass to other new environmentalists so we call all help achieve the conservation goals that Barbara held so dearly for the marine environment.
-Nancy Azzam, Windstar Foundation

Tracking the Toxic Whale Meat

The Dolphin and Whale Action Network has worked hard to get access to official documents showing the level of contamination of various whale meat products in Japan. It has been extremely slow going, as the usual government response is that the documents are "unavailable." This past April, however, an "Open Information System," somewhat similar the US Freedom of Information Act, was implemented. The system was expected to become a "strong arm" for the benefit of the various NGO groups.

However, a recent Action Network request for a document regarding PCB and mercury contamination in meat from the dolphin fisheries in coastal areas yielded a response that the document was created on 25 February 2000, and that the limit in obtaining it expired after one year.

Thus, monitoring the contamination of meat in the Japanese food chain is not easy. Two years ago, during the period just after the media began covering the whale meat contamination issue, the whale meat market seemed to be contracting. However, the Dolphin and Whale Action Network reports that the Japanese Cetacean Research Institute began informing wholesalers that meat from research whaling was not contaminated. With these assurances, the whale meat market has reportedly picked up again.

Last year at IWC in Adelaide, the Action Network asked IWC Commissioner Morishita about the dolphin meat contamination problem and received assurances that "from now on, we will indicate whale as whale, dolphin as dolphin." But such labeling only takes place in a few areas, and the Fisheries Agency still passes off dolphins as whales.

Recently the Dolphin and Whale Action Network found "minke whale meat" from the Wakayama prefecture sold in a department store in Tokyo. They suspected it wasn't whale meat because of its cheap price and dark coloration.

Nanami Kurusawa took the meat to the Japan Cetacean Institute and asked them to subject the sample to DNA analysis. Results indicated that it was striped dolphin. Further, Dr. Tetsuya Endo from Hokkaido Medical University found out from his analysis that this meat contained 67ppm of mercury (170 times the provisional rate) and 26.2 ppm of methyl mercury (87 times the provisional rate).

Whale Embassy in London

This week, the world's first "Whale Embassy" opened in London. Conveniently located opposite the Japanese Embassy in Piccadilly (near Green Park tube) the Whale Embassy is staffed by veteran protestors and Campaign Whale members Vic and Brian. Many delegates will remember them as the sole protesters who stood outside the IWC meetings in Monaco in 1997.

The Embassy is attracting honks of support from passing traffic and brisk trade from pedestrians who are invited to complete anti-whaling protest cards. These are dutifully posted in a special postbox and hand delivered to the Japanese Embassy every evening.

Vic and Brian are mounting a 24-hour vigil every day for the whales with only a life-sized replica Dall's porpoise for company during the twilight hours.

Vic and Brian deserve our admiration and thanks for their efforts on behalf of the whales. Show your support by going down and visiting them at the Embassy this week.

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