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International Marine Mammal Project

 

2004 International Whaling Commission

This year’s International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Sorrento, Italy, brought the long-simmering issue of vote-buying to a boil.

Japan in particular has provided millions of dollars in overseas fisheries aid to many small countries in exchange for these nations’ support of Japan’s pro-whaling position at the IWC.

The 2004 IWC meeting was marked by a major global spotlight on this practice of trading votes for Japanese aid. A number of small countries have joined the Japanese and Norwegian delegations in voting for increased whaling and against whale conservation measures in the IWC, including Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominica, Gabon, Grenada, Guinea, Mauritania, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu.

Several nations at the IWC this year hotly denied the charge of vote-buying, but the practice is well documented. In 2001, to cite just one example, deputy commissioner Masayuki Komatsu of Japan, in a radio interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, stated that there is “nothing wrong” with using overseas development aid to buy votes at the IWC.

Nonetheless, IWC member-nations publicly criticized the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for their press statements about vote-buying. Ironically, the publicity against IFAW raised media interest in the whole issue. The Earth Island-produced ECO, a daily newsletter published by environmental and animal welfare organizations, was also criticized in “commissioners-only” meetings that excluded the press and the public. (To read the 2004 editions of ECO from the IWC, go here).

Despite the support of client countries, Japan and Norway failed to gain support of the majority of the IWC. The IWC rejected Japan’s proposals for further expansion of whaling; attempts by Japan to repeal the Southern Oceans Sanctuary and to establish secret ballots to hide pro-whaling votes by their allies were soundly defeated.

However, environmentalists are concerned that Japan and Norway gained additional support for completing the so-called “Revised Management Scheme” (RMS) by next year’s meeting in South Korea. The RMS is designed to protect whale stocks by allowing limited whaling based on conservative estimates of whale numbers. Japan and Norway are not waiting for the RMS; both nations are engaged in expanding commercial and so-called “scientific” whaling enterprises. However, passage of the RMS will bolster their illegal whaling activities and weaken support for the moratorium on commercial whaling implemented by the IWC in 1985.
— Mark J. Palmer

Most Inhabitants of Vietnamese Fishing villages consider the whales and dolphins that inhabit the coastal waters to be their protectors. Villagers believe that the 'King Whale' escorts fishermen who meet with accidents at sea to safe places. As revered creatures, whales and dolphins are accorded formal funeral ceremonies, which include incense, candles, and tied red fabric. Three years after burial, the mammal's bones are exhumed and placed in a sarcophagus or a terra cotta jar that is then placed in a communal house or temple, such as the one pictured here. <br>      Nguyen Pham Thanh, Highland Dragon Tuna photo.
Most Inhabitants of Vietnamese Fishing villages consider the whales and dolphins that inhabit the coastal waters to be their protectors. Villagers believe that the 'King Whale' escorts fishermen who meet with accidents at sea to safe places. As revered creatures, whales and dolphins are accorded formal funeral ceremonies, which include incense, candles, and tied red fabric. Three years after burial, the mammal's bones are exhumed and placed in a sarcophagus or a terra cotta jar that is then placed in a communal house or temple, such as the one pictured here.
Nguyen Pham Thanh, Highland Dragon Tuna photo.

Federal court slams Bush on dolphin protection

International Marine Mammal Project is celebrating a major legal victory for dolphins. Federal Judge Thelton Henderson, in the case Earth Island Institute v. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, ruled on August 9, 2004 that the US Commerce Department’s weakening of the “Dolphin Safe” label on tuna cans illegally ignored scientific evidence. He ordered a prohibition on the use of a “Dolphin Safe” label on products made with any tuna caught by chasing and netting dolphins.

David Phillips, director of IMMP, explained: “Thankfully, the courts have averted a disaster for dolphins. Judge Henderson’s ruling exposes the Bush administration’s deceit in ignoring its own scientists and caving in to Mexico’s demands to allow dolphin-deadly tuna back into the US with a phony label.”

“Secret documents we obtained through the court,” Phillips continued, “proved that the government knew all along that netting dolphins was jeopardizing their very survival. Yet the Bush administration still went ahead and ruled that tuna trade with Mexico was more important than dolphin lives.”

In a 51-page decision, Judge Henderson stated: “(T)he record convincingly demonstrates that the Secretary (of Commerce) nonetheless proceeded to sacrifice the integrity of the decision-making process by disregarding the best available scientific evidence in favor of political and diplomatic considerations.”

On December 31, 2002, at the urging of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans issued a “no significant adverse impacts” finding, allowing Mexico, Colómbia, and other tuna-fishing nations to label their tuna as “Dolphin Safe” and sell it in the US, even if it was caught by chasing, netting, and killing dolphins. More than seven million dolphins have been killed in tuna nets since the late 1950s.

Earth Island Institute’s pro bono attorneys immediately sued the federal government. Despite attempts by the government to hide documents and deny the charges, Earth Island built a convincing case for the need to protect dolphins, based on the government’s own scientific research.

It is unclear at this time whether the Bush administration will appeal the decision.

“We have to watch Congress and the courts to make sure the Bush administration enforces the court order,” Phillips said. “For now, US consumers can trust the standards that apply to tuna. We also need to get the word out to other major tuna markets, such as European countries, about the need to continue to protect dolphins with strong ‘Dolphin Safe’ label standards that preclude chasing and netting dolphins to catch the tuna that swim beneath them.”

Plaintiffs in this case include Earth Island Institute, Samuel LaBudde, The Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Defenders of Wildlife, International Wildlife Coalition, Animal Welfare Institute, Society for Animal Protective Legislation, Animal Fund, and Oceanic Society. Legal services were provided by Holme, Roberts, and Owen LLP.
— Mark J. Palmer

Tuna campaign in Japan

Although many countries around the world consume marine products, Japan, with its long history of fishing and marine harvesting, consumes more per capita than others. It is hard to find a traditional Japanese recipe that does not call for a marine product of some sort.

Tuna sashimi is one of the most popular dishes, although historically it was served only on special occasions such as the New Year’s feast, or at funerals or weddings. For everyday meals, Japanese people generally used other fish, such as sardine, mackerel, horse mackerel, or saury. Due either to a cultural shift or simply a change in taste preferences, people now eat tuna sashimi more frequently than ever before. Sashimi is sold virtually everywhere, despite international concerns about tuna over-harvesting. According to the Fisheries Agency, Japan consumed 451,000 tons of tuna sashimi in 2000, of which 60 percent was imported from other countries. The total amount of imported tuna is suspected to be higher, as this data includes only raw fish and does not account for processed tuna.

In Japan, canned or processed tuna makes up another very large market: pet food. In the past, it was a commonly held opinion that cats should almost solely eat fish. Until recently, cats were fed “Nekomamma” (cat meal), which consists of boiled rice with dried bonito fish slices. Now, as people spend less time at home cooking, the food industry has proliferated with more and more processed pet food. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that in 2000, 106,226 tons of canned cat food circulated on the Japanese market. According to the Association of the Pet Food Industry, 80 to 90 percent of this canned food was made with fish, primarily tuna.

The demand for tuna in Japan is not only putting stress on Japanese waters but also on seas around the world. Japanese tuna imports now exceed the domestic catch, including fish caught in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean, where dolphins are intentionally chased and netted to catch tuna. As long as the vast majority of canned tuna is from the Western Pacific and Indian oceans, there must be vigilance to halt any imports of dolphin-deadly tuna into Japan’s pet food market.

There are a few hurdles to jump in order to reduce the demand for tuna products in Japan. For one, many Japanese consumers care more about food safety than the environmental aspects of their food products. Thus consumers and tuna processing companies within Japan pay little attention to dolphin safety.

The dolphin safe campaign in Japan is now targeting the pet food industry. Canned tuna for cats largely comes from Thailand, where dolphin safe standards are strictly followed. The campaign aims to put dolphin safe labels on canned cat food; if one company uses the campaign for its positive PR image, it is hoped that other companies will be inspired to do the same.

Using a series of such objectives, the campaign aims to enhance Japanese consumer awareness of the environmental aspects of tuna products and prompt environmentally responsible choices for themselves and their pets.
— Nanami Kurasawa

   

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