Eco 2008, Volume LX, Reports from the International Whaling Commission annual meeting in Santiago

The International Whaling Commission(IWC)

The International Whaling Commission is the regulatory body established by international treaty in 1946 to both regulate whaling on the high seas and to promote the "orderly development" of the whaling industry.

For many of its early years, the IWC was seriously deficient in protecting whales from commercial whaling. Many species declined to levels where their future survival still rests in doubt, due to over-hunting. The Scientific Committee was often ignored in the IWC political discussions to divide up the world's whales among whaling nations.

However, beginning in the 1960s, many whaling nations, in the face of public opposition and declining whale numbers, closed down their whaling industries, while the concerns of environmental and animal welfare organizations began to be heard within the formerly-closed IWC deliberations. In 1985, the IWC imposed a long-term moratorium on commercial whaling, although several nations are using questionable loopholes in international law to pursue continued whaling, notably Japan and Norway.

IWC Website: www.iwcoffice.org

ECO - The Environmental Voice at IWC

For years, the IWC has allowed Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to attend and observe proceedings at IWC meetings. But NGOs are not allowed to participate by making statements or arguing policy; only representatives of member nations can actively participate.

The environmental and animal welfare community developed ECO, a daily newsletter, to compensate for this lack of direct access to the debates.

ECO is put together each evening, recording votes by member nations and providing background and commentary from NGOs about the proceedings of the IWC. ECO is then distributed the next morning. ECO provides IWC member nation delegations, the media, and the public with the views of organizations defending the rights of whales.

ECO is funded and written by NGOs.

Sperm and Minke Whales – illustrations donated by Larry Foster

sperm whale drawing, swimmingminke whale drawing, swimming

.pdf versions of ECO:

HTML versions follow below, most recent first.


ECO No. 5

Japan Struggles With Whaling Crisis

The highest levels of the Japanese government are now being compelled to deal with the whaling issue - for the first time since the 1980’s when the moratorium was enacted and the United States threatened economic sanctions.

Prime Minister Fukuda and the foreign ministry are desperately attempting to control—and perhaps resolve—the crisis that was touched off earlier this year when the new Australian government launched a major attack on Japan’s Antarctic whaling and environmental groups harassed the whaling fleet.

The crisis comes just as Japan is preparing to host the annual meeting of the G-8 industrial nations next month. Prime Minister Fukuda, who will project Japan as the global leader in the battle against global warming and its effects, sought to repair Japan’s tattered environmental image by commanding that no divisive whaling issues be raised at this week’s IWC meeting.

And the United States has been doing Japan’s bidding at the IWC by pushing for “compromise” in the decades-long stalemate over whaling.

Japan, which has few friends and even less sympathy in the world, depends on the U.S. to help bail it out of difficult situations that arise in international affairs—like the whaling issue.

Back in 1984, Japan violated the IWC’s ban on sperm whaling. When environmental groups threatened legal action to force the U.S. to impose economic sanctions against Japan for the outlaw whaling, the U.S. and Japan suddenly signed a bilateral agreement whereby Japan was exempted from not only the sperm whaling ban but also the general whaling moratorium that went into effect in 1986. In return, Japan promised to end “all whaling” by 1988.

This bilateral agreement, which is still in effect and has the status of a treaty, was openly violated by Japan when it continued whaling beyond 1988. The environmentalists won their lawsuit and the U.S. imposed sanctions: the loss of fishing access to the U.S. 200-mile EEZ. To this day, Japan remains certified by the U.S. as an outlaw whaling nation and cannot fish in U.S. waters.

The U.S. is once again attempting to save Japan’s neck by creating the Small Working Group on the Future of the IWC. This not-small gang of 24 nations will be meeting for years to come to seek an end to the bitter international crisis that now engulfs Japan.

Japan’s only recourse is to abandon its pelagic whaling—the deep-sea fleets that have been hunting down whales for the last 22 years in violation of the IWC ban. Until it does so, the nations of the Southern Hemisphere will increase their pressure against the Antarctic whaling, and environmental and animal welfare groups will continue to inflame public opinion worldwide against the illegal whaling.

Several NGOs are now considering a massive, new boycott campaign against Japanese products similar to the boycott in the 1970s that rocked Japanese industry and compelled Japan to abide by IWC quotas.

William Hogarth, the IWC chairman and U.S. commissioner, has been working relentlessly over the past year to cobble together a solution to Japan’s misery.

But Japan has a second major cetacean headache, this one exploding right on its shore. An undercover documentary film about the slaughter of dolphins and small whales at the seaside town of Taiji has been produced by an American team. Japanese officials have turned white-faced when shown the video, “The Rising.” And the Oceanic Preservation Society will release a feature-length 90-minute film about the Taiji killing and toxic dolphin meat worldwide in January. The short video can be viewed at the OPS website: http://www.opsociety.org.

The new Australian government set off alarms in the corridors of power in Tokyo when Environment Minister Peter Garrett courageously released damning photos of the whale-killing—especially a picture of a dead mother whale and its calf being hauled up the stern slipway of the Nisshin Maru factory ship—Japan’s outlaw whaling was exposed damningly to the entire world.

Japan’s two dominant agencies, the foreign and trade ministries, are aghast at the negative impact of whaling and dolphin-killing on Japan’s international image. The influential intellectual community in Japan is vocally criticizing Japanese whaling policy and the hard-line Fisheries Agency. The Japanese news media is beginning to report the dark history and the scandals behind whaling and the trade in poisonous meat.

###

Grand Plan in Tatters

Denmark managed to nearly destroy the Grand Plan to “save” the IWC yesterday, two days after it was unveiled, by insisting on a divisive vote of the IWC for its controversial humpback whale quota for Greenland.

As outlined in ECO yesterday, the World Society for the Protection of Animals prepared a stunning report for the IWC showing that whale meat in Greenland was readily available in supermarkets, rather than fulfilling the nutritional needs of local fishing people for aboriginal subsistence.

For years, Denmark has refused to provide the IWC with information on the disposition of whale meat in Greenland to justify continued aboriginal whaling. Instead, Denmark brought their proposal to the Plenary Session yesterday, asking for consensus on allowing Greenlanders to kill (in addition to many other whales and marine mammals they already kill) ten humpback whales annually for five years.

Under informal agreement all week, the IWC has been proceeding without taking up controversial issues and avoiding any fights. Denmark’s insistence on pushing for a Schedule Amendment requiring a three-quarters vote caused havoc in the session.

The European Union announced it had carefully studied the proposal and had agreed that all its countries would oppose the Denmark proposal, based on the lack of information about nutritional needs in Greenland.

This precipitated quite a good, old-fashioned IWC fight, with whaling nations and their client nations attacking the EU.

Others expressed dire upset for the future of the IWC. One commissioner offered her “condolences” to Chairman Hogarth for the demise of his effort to reach consensus. The Japanese delegation expressed their deep sorrow, saying this was a sad day in the history of the IWC. Iceland added to the hand-wringing by claiming: “This proposal has been harpooned, but it may yet be saved.”

During the frothy debate, no one mentioned that many of the countries (especially Japan) castigating the EU were themselves opposed to approving a quota of bowhead whales for Alaskan Inuit during the IWC meeting in Shimonoseki, Japan. That blocked vote by Japan and company resulted in a crisis resolved in a follow up Intersessional meeting, after there were calls for the US to leave the IWC.

Denmark insisted on a vote, which was duly voted down 29-Aye and 36-No. One surprise: The US voted for the quota, ignoring the issue of meat allocation.

Come to think of it, the US vote is not so strange as it might seem. Didn’t the US push a gray whale quota for the Makah tribe in Washington State without ever making the case for subsistence need (since the tribe had flourished for 70 years without whaling)?

###

Yet Another Reason to Mistrust Japan Whalers

Japan’s IWC delegation assures the Commission members and the world that they are only interested in hunting sustainable whale populations under strict scientific controls.

But the evidence is otherwise.

Repeatedly, DNA analysis by researchers on whale and dolphin meat samples bought in Japanese markets reveals protected species of whales have been killed, processed into meat, and sold to unwary consumers. These infractions are not reported to the IWC.

Of ninety-nine whale meat products examined since 2006, by a team led by Dr. Scott Baker of Oregon State University, six baleen species have been identified: humpback, fin, sei, Bryde’s, North Pacific and Antarctic minke whales. Humpbacks have been protected by the IWC since 1964.

Furthermore, using forensic techniques similar to those used to identify DNA from individual criminals, the team identified DNA from 15 individual fin whales for sale. But during that period, the Japanese whalers only reported catching 13 fin whales.

In response, the Scientific Committee requested data on fin whale catch DNA from Japan.

The government of Japan has refused this request, despite claiming the whale kill is taking place for the specific purpose of providing scientific data.

Says Patrick Ramage, Whale Program Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare: “The government of Japan claims it can regulate whaling and the whale meat trade. In truth, it can do neither.”

###

Japan Silent on Dall’s Tragedy

During Wednesday’s plenary session discussing the Scientific Committee’s report on small cetaceans saw 15 countries make strong interventions expressing their concerns over Japan’s Dall’s porpoise hunt, led by the United Kingdom and supported by the US. The Japan Fisheries Agency officiates over the deaths of 20,000+ dolphins and porpoises every year, many killed with the coldest of harpoons.

Portugal’s commissioner asked Japan directly if they would implement the recommendations of the Scientific Committee and reduce the Dall’s slaughter to sustainable levels. Sweden also asked if Japan would respond?

But Chairman Hogarth, true to his vision of peaceful relations among his flock, intervened saying: “Japan has not asked for the floor, so we will move on.”

The UK delegate summed up the mood by stating: “I sincerely hope that in the new spirit of cooperation in the IWC, Japan will indicate its willingness to embrace the majority view in this Commission that the IWC has the mandate to address all small cetaceans, and act accordingly.”

Austria made an impassioned intervention, and, referring to the extinction of the baiji in China and the imminent threat of extinction of the vaquita of Mexico, vigorously insisted that the IWC should recognize what the core IWC issues are: the prevention of extinction. The IWC should intervene where the Scientific Committee recognizes a directed take is of concern and take action.

The world is waiting for Japan to take the initiative to end their cruel whale, porpoise, and dolphin hunts, once and for all.

###

Japan is Poisoning Its Own People

The Environmental Investigation Agency has produced a stunning report for IWC 60 on the contamination problems with whale, dolphin and porpoise meat on the Japanese market. Over the past ten years, the report notes, many independent studies and analyses of marine mammal meat have been conducted, all of them showing high levels of mercury, in some cases many times higher than levels recommended by Japanese health agencies.

Yet, no effort has been made by Japan to warn consumers and remove the poisoned meat from markets.

More recently, EIA collected 67 meat samples for analyses in 2006 and 2007. Fifty-two percent of the products exceeded health limits for either mercury, methylmercury or PCBs.

Dall’s porpoise blubber contained PCB levels more than eight times higher that Japan’s regulatory limit. One packet (of unlabeled meat from an unknown cetacean) was 17 times higher in mercury and 12 times higher in methylmercury levels than the regulated level.

The EIA investigation also found more than 26% of the products were not correctly labeled as to species or common names for cetaceans.

EIA notes that laws already exist to remove seafood with high mercury levels that pose serious health threats.

EIA concludes by recommending an end to dolphin and porpoise hunts altogether, providing alternative support to fishermen and others who lose work due to the health shutdown.

###

A South Atlantic Sanctuary for Whales

Chile has joined Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and many other Latin American countries in proposing a South Atlantic Sanctuary for whales. Such a sanctuary would complement the new Chilean sanctuary, established within the Chilean EEZ on Monday by President Michelle Bachelet.

The proposed Sanctuary, abutting the Southern Sanctuary (approved by the IWC in 1994) of Antarctic waters, has been repeatedly approved by a majority of IWC members. But the establishment of a sanctuary requires a 3/4 vote of the IWC membership.

Chile and Brazil have not been discouraged by this continued opposition from a minority of member nations. Indeed, Chile is hosting IWC 60 as part of its continuing efforts to promote the Sanctuary idea.

One thing is for certain—the supporters of the Sanctuary are not going to give up on protecting the whales and the southern oceans.

###

Burning at the Stake, Take Two

The Russian commissioner revisited his bizarre take on European history on Thursday during the debate over Greenland humpback whales.

Attacking the European Union’s consensus opposition to a humpback whale quota for Greenland, the Russian exclaimed: “Europe does not need science. (Europe) is proposing we liquidate the Scientific Committee.”

Copernicus, who was not burned at the stake, must be rolling over in his grave in Poland. Copernicus was a progressive scientist who shattered the religious mythologies about the solar system and introduced the Age of Enlightenment and the study of nature.

The ruthless destruction of the great whales is itself an artifact of the brutality of the Middle Ages. It is the whalers who are attempting to put modern science and the truth to the torch.

Russian history, from the czars to the commissars (and even to the oligarchs today), records relentless brutality toward heretics.

Copernicus would be standing with the whales and against the senseless butchery if he were alive today—and against the misreading of history.

###

Baiji, R.I.P.

During Wednesday’s report on small cetaceans by the Scientific Committee, the Chinese delegation made a long statement about its efforts to protect the finless porpoise in its river habitat. But we can’t be optimistic about the survival of this species, given the massive economic development, damming and channeling of rivers, and catastrophic pollution across China.

ECO recalls similar promises by China over the past two decades to protect the Baiji, the famed river dolphin of the mighty Yangtze River. But the monster Three Gorges Dam has turned the Yangtze into an industrial zone and a massive cesspool.

And the Baiji was declared extinct last year.

Rest in peace.

###

Who? US?

Our friends with the Wise Use Movement [sic] publication IWMC Conservation Tribune have lamented that the biggest delegation this year at the IWC is not Japan, the US or Chile but the “Whales Need US” group, which numbers 53 individuals, by IWMC’s count.

ECO would like to point out that “Whales Need US” is a loose coalition of existing groups in the US of A working on IWC issues for many decades.

And besides, some of us object to being called “individuals.”

###

Friday June 27, 2008


ECO No. 4

The Grand Plan

After days—nay, months!—of discussion, the IWC commissioners revealed the consensus arrived at with a flourish to the world.

Drum roll please ...

The IWC will establish a SMALL WORKING GROUP to save the IWC.

So far, this SMALL WORKING GROUP consists of 24 members (almost one-third of the IWC’s 81 member nations).

Also so far, the areas of discussion for the SMALL WORKING GROUP consist of 33 topics, including bycatch, civil society (the new watch-word at this year’s IWC meeting, by the way), coastal whaling, scientific whaling, aboriginal whaling, sanctuaries, “ethics” (ethics?), the RMS, the RMP, sanctions, small cetaceans, trade restrictions—in other words, all the contentious issues (and then some) from the past 60 years of the IWC will be discussed by the SMALL WORKING GROUP or SWG (pronounced “swig” as in what everyone does as soon as the IWC meeting is over).

Unfortunately, the SMALL WORKING GROUP membership consists of strong representation from all sides of IWC debates, so getting the consensed SMALL WORKING GROUP to consensus will probably take a while …

A number of procedural proposals were also adopted by consensus, except that nations during the open session objected to them. (The Russian Federation, Korea, and China objected to a proposal, supposedly consensed on, to print all documents in Spanish and French, as well as English.)

Member countries agreed to try to circulate proposed resolutions sixty days in advance of meetings, rather than at the meetings. The Commissioners also consensed that they would try to reach consensus on all issues, only resorting to voting if no consensus is found.

 So, it appears that consensus is indeed possible, if everyone consenses to the consensus in a consensual manner. It is especially easy if we all agree to gain consensus in the future. Especially in a SMALL WORKING GROUP.

Meanwhile, the whaling industry is sharpening its harpoons for the next season of bloodletting.

###

Free Speech for Half-an-Hour

With a great flourish, the IWC yesterday gave Non-governmental Organizations the immense new privilege of speaking their minds on any topic to the full Commission, for a total of 30 minutes and four speakers for each “side” of the whale debate.

This is supposed to be an experimental “step in the right direction” for more involvement of NGO’s in the IWC’s ponderous deliberations. Of course, for decades many other international fora have been providing opportunities for NGO speakers, recognizing that NGO’s often have important scientific information, investigative abilities, brilliant analyses, and don’t put delegations to sleep, and therefore they welcome NGO speakers.

Dr. Mamadou Diallo, with WWF’s West Africa Marine Ecoregion Programme, stated: “The argument that great whales are behind declining fish stocks is completely without scientific foundation. It is not the whales, but rather over-fishing and excess fishing capacity that are responsible for diminishing supplies of fish in developing countries. Blaming whales serves to harm developing nations by distracting any debate on the real causes of the declines of their fisheries. We urge contracting governments to counter any unfounded claims that food security is threatened by whales-and to responsibly address over-fishing and excess fishing capacity.“

Barbara Galletti representing many Latin American NGOs emphasized the importance of protecting whales: “For our region, the growing development of the industry of responsible and high quality whale watching is of great importance because of its social, cultural, environmental, educational and economic benefits. Even more, these benefits contribute directly to the qualitative and sustainable development of our coastal communities, for which the non lethal use and conservation of cetaceans represents the legitimate demands of Latin American citizens.”

Wakao Hanaoka of Greenpeace Japan spoke of the future: “All parties to this Convention need to take action this week towards turning that tide, so that in 2068, if perhaps one of our children is a Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission, it will be possible for him or her to address this body saying:

‘This Commission will be known to history as a body which rose to the occasion and became an instrument of conservation which brought back whale species from the brink of extinction and led the way for the protection of marine biodiversity so that we can be proud of the clean, healthy and vital oceans that we have today.’”

###

Revolving Myths

The Russian Federation has discovered the history of the establishment of Non-Governmental Organizations. NGOs appeared, the Russian delegate happily explained to the Commission yesterday, when Copernicus was burned at the stake. Critics of research whaling are attempting to “push Japan into the fire,” he exclaimed.

ECO thanks Russia for this intervention, except to point out that Copernicus, the great Polish scientist who proved that the planets revolve around the sun, in fact died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 70. His family was at his side, not witch-burners imagined by the Russian commissioner. He reportedly died contentedly because it was on that day that the first edition of his revolutionary book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium was presented to him. The Catholic Church did not condemn his writings for another fifty years.

ECO further notes that brutal repressive governments, and coincidentally bloody killing of whales, were established long before that.

So the Russian commissioner’s crude attempt to impugn the integrity of honest scientists, environmentalists, and nations critical of Japan’s fraudulent “scientific whaling” deserves itself to be put to the torch. It is unworthy of scientific and political discourse.

And, no, the world does not revolve around the IWC.

###

Optimistic Future

According to the High North Alliance, those hearty defenders of Nordic bloodshed, “(a) day and (a) half of discussions on the Future of the International Whaling Commission should clearly cement in the minds of its members that the organisation has no future …

“In their effort to keep the IWC alive and resurrect the organisation from the sea of irrelevance, the members are attempting to put everyone’s concerns into a ‘package deal’ that will include everything from commercial whaling and science through sanctuaries and small cetaceans.

“This process will demonstrate the real future of the IWC - that it is well and truly dead. The real question now is: what organisation will be responsible for the future management and conservation of whale stocks?”

###

The Biggest Slaughter Continues

Environmentalists continue to call for a stop to Japan’s Dall’s porpoise hunt—the biggest whale kill in the world. This hunt is the largest directed kill of any cetacean species and has been for over a quarter of a century. Since records began in the 1960s, more than half a million Dall’s porpoises have been killed in Japan’s coastal waters, at least 350,000 of these during the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling. That’s an average of two porpoises an hour throughout the entire 22 years of the moratorium!

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency and Campaign Whale, a further 16,875 animals will be killed this year with the meat sold for human consumption despite the fact it is heavily polluted.

EIA’s Director Jennifer Lonsdale says, “Japan claims that it supports the sustainable management of whales based on science. However, its appalling mismanagement of the Dall’s hunt belies this claim.”

The IWC Scientific Committee has repeatedly expressed concerns that Japan’s porpoise slaughter is not sustainable and called for new population assessments. This year’s report recommends that catches be reduced to sustainable levels as soon as possible. Many nations made interventions yesterday expressing concerns for the Dall’s porpoise in Japanese waters.

The Scientific Committee has expressed similar concerns twelve times in the last sixteen years with the Commission passing three resolutions on the issue, the most recent in 2001, which called on Japan to “halt the directed takes of Dall’s porpoises until a full assessment by the Scientific Committee has been carried out.” Japan has completely ignored these calls for restraint.

However, there is hope with Japan Fisheries Agency scientists suggesting that Japan may implement a new management model known as Potential Biological Removal (PBR) that could drastically cut quotas. The PBR strategy will only work with scientifically sound population estimates.

“The Dall’s porpoise hunt is totally unsustainable, but we hope that the recommendations of the Scientific Committee and the repeated concerns of the Commission may finally be heeded by Japan,” says Campaign Whale Director Andy Ottaway. “Certainly urgent action is needed before Dall’s porpoises are wiped out in Japanese waters.”

###

Coming to a Market Near You

Oh Greenland is a dreadful place;
It’s a land that’s never green,
Where there’s ice and snow
and the whale fishes blow,
And the sun is seldom seen,
‘way boys, the sun is seldom seen.
—The Ballad of the Greenland Whalers


Don’t look now, but aboriginal subsistence has gone mainstream in Greenland. Contrary to IWC regulations, whale meat caught for ostensibly local, shared consumption for Greenland’s native food needs is in fact being sold in stores. The World Society for the Protection of Animals has documented that the whale meat is widely available in supermarkets throughout Greenland.

This is not subsistence whaling— it is commercial whaling. Duh!

There are a number of problems with the Greenland harvest of whales and other marine mammals. Many of the populations targeted are severely reduced and need protection. Toxic contamination of whale meat is a major issue. Global warming is reducing whale, dolphin, and seal habitat and endangers hunters on the thin ice.

During the IWC Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub-committee meeting on June 18th, several nations, in response to the WSPA research, asked Denmark to prepare a report on the disposition of whale meat caught in Greenland ostensibly for subsistence, but surprisingly Denmark refused.

Denmark went on to claim the sale of whale meat was important to the hunters in order for them to have cash to buy whale weaponry. But WSPA notes that, according to their review, only 22 percent of the whale meat sale price goes to the Greenland whalers. The retail stores and the distributor, ironically named Arctic Green Food, consume the rest.

Clearly, allowing Greenland to continue the fraud of aboriginal whaling when in fact the whale meat is simply bought and sold in the best commercial tradition is an insult to the intelligence of the member nations of the IWC.

This shame did not keep the government of Denmark from proposing an increase in humpback whale quotas for the hunters. Reportedly, when the EU countries at a meeting unanimously agreed to oppose the Denmark proposal, Denmark huffily walked out of the meeting.

But Denmark also is expected to withdraw their proposal.

###

Japan’s Poisoned Coastal Dolphin Meat

Japan suffered the most extreme consequence of ocean pollution in the 1950s when fishermen in the small village of Minamata ate fish laced with mercury that was dumped into the bay from a factory.

Today, alarmed health officials are discovering that mercury levels found in dolphins and small whales caught in Japan’s coastal waters are higher than the levels in the fish at Minamata Bay. Some of this dolphin meat is even showing up on school lunch menus, exposing children, the most vulnerable age group to mercury poisoning, to the deadly toxins.

Blue Voice reports at this IWC meeting that mercury levels found in people in the town of Taiji who eat dolphin meat were extremely high. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends mercury levels no higher than 1.0 ppm. One man tested in Taiji revealed a mercury level of 18.9 ppm—a doctor recommended that he be immediately hospitalized.

Three people in the Blue Voice study claimed they gave up eating dolphin meat a year or more before being tested. Yet, they still had high mercury levels ranging from 7.2 to 7.9 ppm.

High levels of heavy metals were also detected. The man with the highest mercury levels also had 5.6 ppm levels of lead, a serious neuro-toxin. High levels of aluminum and arsenic were also found.

###

Japan’s Poisoned Coastal Dolphin Meat

Japan suffered the most extreme consequence of ocean pollution in the 1950s when fishermen in the small village of Minamata ate fish laced with mercury that was dumped into the bay from a factory.

Today, alarmed health officials are discovering that mercury levels found in dolphins and small whales caught in Japan’s coastal waters are higher than the levels in the fish at Minamata Bay. Some of this dolphin meat is even showing up on school lunch menus, exposing children, the most vulnerable age group to mercury poisoning, to the deadly toxins.

Blue Voice reports at this IWC meeting that mercury levels found in people in the town of Taiji who eat dolphin meat were extremely high. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends mercury levels no higher than 1.0 ppm. One man tested in Taiji revealed a mercury level of 18.9 ppm—a doctor recommended that he be immediately hospitalized.

Three people in the Blue Voice study claimed they gave up eating dolphin meat a year or more before being tested. Yet, they still had high mercury levels ranging from 7.2 to 7.9 ppm.

High levels of heavy metals were also detected. The man with the highest mercury levels also had 5.6 ppm levels of lead, a serious neuro-toxin. High levels of aluminum and arsenic were also found.

###

¿Donde esta Estados Unidos?

At Monday’s ceremony with the Chilean Government announcing a ban on whaling and a nation-wide whale sanctuary, dozens of dignitaries from around the world attended, including several environment ministers and ambassadors representing their countries.

But where was a representative of the United States standing alongside Chilean President Michelle Bachelet? Not an American official to be seen. Nobody from the U.S. delegation to the IWC. No U.S. ambassador or diplomat.

Nadie!

The most popular Republican in the U.S., California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, spent a whole day with President Bachelet recently to cement relations. But the Bush Administration, decidedly unpopular across the U.S. and around the world, reinforced its pathetic image by ignoring the anti-whaling celebration held amid the ruins of a Japanese whaling station near Valparaiso.

###

Adios, Vaquita

In spite of two decades of promises by the Mexican government to take actions to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise from extinction, the IWC Scientific Committee reported Wednesday that the beautiful little cetacean in the Gulf of California could vanish within 5 years.

It is a tragic tale of governmental malfeasance. In 1997 a study estimated that 567 vaquitas inhabited the waters around the delta of the Colorado River. A study in 2007 estimated the number had fallen to just 119. Illegal gillnet fishing in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez is relentlessly killing off the last of the porpoises.

The Scientific Committee warned that while “the government of Mexico is taking measures to eliminate the fishery gear that is drowning vaquitas, it is greatly concerned that the proposed phase-out period of ‘within three years’ may not be rapid enough to prevent extinction. Certainly if this schedule was to slip, then extinction is probable in a short time.”

(It doesn’t help the vaquita’s dire situation that Mexico’s infamous drug cartels are operating openly throughout the northern Gulf of California, trafficking boatloads of cocaine toward the U.S. border.)

So Mexico might want to take to heart the desperate appeal of the Scientific Committee: “It strongly recommends that, if extinction is to be avoided, all gillnets should be removed from the upper Gulf of California immediately.”

Thursday June 26, 2008


ECO No. 3

Pinochet Regime and Japan’s Outlaw Whalers

The secret massacre of Chile’s endangered whales by Japanese whalers in the 1960s, documented in Monday’s ECO, continued openly in the 1970s under the dictatorial rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

A modern factory/catcher ship supplied by a Japanese whaling company was sent to Chile in 1977 to vastly expand an existing Chilean whaling operation, Macaya Hermanos.

The Macaya shore station, based in the port of Chome on the central coast, was launched with three old catcher boats acquired from Antarctic whaling fleets. From 1968 to 1975, as many as 352 whales were harpooned each year, mainly sperm and sei whales, outside of any regulation, because Chile refused to join the International Whaling Commission. The meat and oil was exported to Japan.

But by 1976 only one boat was operable, taking just 77 whales. Japan’s giant Taiyo Fishery Co., which ran pirate whaling ships worldwide in addition to its Japan-flagged fleets, announced a joint venture with Macaya to expand the Chilean whaling operation. Taiyo—today named Maruha—sought to export one of its surplus whale catcher boats to Macaya. But the Japanese government, already stung by IWC criticism of such flagrant support of outlaw whaling, blocked the export permit for the ship.

Undaunted, Taiyo concocted another, more successful scheme to expand unregulated whaling in Chile. A Taiyo subsidiary, a marine supply company named Taito Seiko Co., purchased a modern stern trawler, the Orient Maru No. 2, from Tokushima Suisan Co. The ship had been a Japanese pollock trawler in the Bering Sea until it was made surplus when the U.S. imposed its 200-mile fishing limit.

Taito Seiko then sold the ship to the Paulmy Co. of Liberia, a Taiyo dummy corporation designed to hide the identity of the owner. Taito Seiko filed an export document with the Japanese government stating, “The purpose of such procurement is its use for shrimp trawling off the coasts of Panama.”

Indeed, the Orient Maru No. 2 was renamed the Paulmy Star No. 3 and registered under the Panamanian flag as a “camaronero,” a shrimp boat. It left Japan in April 1977, but never got within 3,000 miles of Panama. Instead, the Paulmy Star No. 3 headed south to Tahiti’s port of Papeete, a scene of intrigue since the days of Captain Bligh and the mutiny on the Bounty.

When the 150-foot, 350-ton Paulmy Star sailed away from Tahiti on June 30th for Chile, it carried a massive harpoon gun on its bow.

As one Chilean conservationist observed when the ship arrived in Chome: “A harpoon gun is not famous as a productive weapon against shrimp.” The stern slipway had been widened and a huge winch installed to permit the largest of whale carcasses—even blue whales—to be hauled aboard the Paulmy Star for slaughter.

Before the Paulmy Star arrived in Chile, Taiyo Fishery Co. had persuaded the Pinochet military junta to grant Macaya Hermanos a permit to kill 500 whales a year for three years. Shortly after the ship arrived, a Chilean newspaper reported: “With the arrival of the new whaling ship, which can remain at sea for long periods and which offers lower maintenance costs, the Macaya Brothers’ firm hopes to extend the whaling season to 10 or 11 months—the last season lasted only six months—thus increasing the number of animals caught and maintaining constant activity at its whaling station in Chome, south of San Vincente.”

When Chilean conservationists raised an outcry over the granting of the whaling permit and the heavy Japanese interests in the operation, the Pinochet junta blocked their move to forbid the export of whale products.

The factory/catcher boat roamed the long Chilean coast harpooning dozens of whales each month without any regulation. Endangered blue, right and humpback whales were killed, as well as fin and sei whales; the carcasses were butchered onboard. Nobody knows the extent of the three-year slaughter because no records were reported to the IWC or Norway’s Bureau of International Whaling Statistics. Hundred-ton shipments of whale meat were regularly sent by refrigerator ship to Japan, where none of the imports were reported in customs statistics.

In fact, the Paulmy Star was a true pirate ship, whaling outside Chilean oversight and defying all international regulation. While the ship was ostensibly being leased to Macaya Hermanos by Paulmy Co. of Panama, the reality is that it was operated totally separately from Macaya by a Taiyo employee, Hiroshi Otsuka. Chilean officials privately insisted that the Japanese whalers owned the Paulmy Star and directed its entire operation.

The Paulmy Star was one of many pirate whaling ships operated by Taiyo Fishery Co. in every ocean. These included the infamous Sierra and Tonna, which pillaged whales in the Atlantic for more than a decade, and the Susan, Teresa and Cape Fisher, which roamed the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and the Taiwan-based Sea Bird, also operated by the Paulmy Co. of Panama, which depleted humpback and Bryde’s whale stocks in the Western Pacific.

The Paulmy Star and the other pirate ships were forced to end their bloody slaughter between 1978 and 1982 when environmentalists and the United States launched a major campaign to put them out of business. The U.S. threatened economic sanctions against non-IWC nations such as Chile, which promptly joined the IWC and had zero whale quotas imposed. The Sierra was rammed along the Portuguese coast, then later sunk by a limpet mine in Lisbon harbor. The Tonna capsized during a storm while it was attempting to winch a giant fin whale onboard.

Chile’s new President, Michelle Bachelet, yesterday signed into law a ban on all whaling and the creation of a whale sanctuary in Chile’s EEZ. ECO salutes President Bachelet, her government, and the people of Chile for their forward-thinking efforts to protect whales and their ocean heritage, for Chileans and for all peoples.

###

Some Barbed Questions from Dr. Sidney Holt

Does Japan really want commercial whaling legitimized?

And will it really abandon the IWC if it does not get its way?

Does the Japan Fisheries Agency really want Schedule paragraph 10(e) (the “moratorium”) modified to allow some commercial whaling under Article V of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946? I think not; whaling under Article VIII (Special Permits) is far more convenient and profitable. Not only are catches determined unilaterally, but no other IWC regulations pertain: submission of data, minimum sizes, prohibition of killing nursing mothers and calves, honouring sanctuaries and season opening and closing dates. Why would they give up those freedoms?

But there are other cogent reasons for Japan not really wanting Article V whaling to resume. If it did it would surely be regulated under the Revised Management Procedure (RMP). The basic requirement of the RMP is the existence of agreed estimates of whale population numbers and of their statistical confidence limits. After two decades of intensive sightings surveys, the Scientific Committee still does not have any agreed estimates of the numbers of Southern Hemisphere minke whales (contrary to what the government of Japan claims). And the Committee is nowhere near estimating the numbers of fin whales now feeding in the Antarctic—and that is the species/stock on which the profitability of any resumed Article V whaling depends in the medium and long-term.

Regardless of publicized threats, Japan is most unlikely to leave the IWC while it continues whaling. What could it gain by such a move? It would effectively join the ranks of pirate whalers in direct conflict with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the UN environment conferences in Rio and Johannesburg. What would be the point of upping the diplomatic and legal stakes in that way? Japan’s Alternate Commissioner has written “we’ll set up a new international organization.” But the Antarctic is where the whales and future profits reside, and CCAMLR exists and is active. Set up another, competitor with CCAMLR? Bend CCAMLR (of which Japan is a Member) to Japan’s will? Most unlikely!

No, Japan will stay in the IWC so long as the organization exists.

###

Japan’s Institutional Contradictions

The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research, which is running Japan’s so-called “scientific” slaughter of whales in the Antarctic and the North Pacific, has taken a swing at Australia for that country’s refusal to compromise.

But in the same breath, the ICR representative (we call them “PR flaks” in the US) is flatly refusing any Southern Oceans Sanctuary for whales.

The Australian Herald Sun reports that said PR flak, Glenn Inwood, states: “I think it is not helpful that they (Australia’s delegation) come to this meeting with fresh demands when every other country is making an eleventh-hour attempt to broker a deal that will ensure the future of the commission.”

(ECO would like to point out that it is much more likely that the Commission will have a future if the Commission keeps a few whales around, but we digress.)

But once Mr. Inwood has finished preaching compromise, he immediately slams a door in the face of the other countries at the IWC:

“The whale sanctuary in the Atlantic won’t fly,” Mr. Inwood pronounces.

“They will bring it up at the meeting, but they won’t take it to a vote. They will see there is too much opposition.”

When most countries compromise, we say that there is “give and take.”

Of course, the Japanese whaling industry and their government puppets just take, and take, and take ...

###

Guess Who’s Eating the Fish?


For years, the politically powerful and conservative Japan Fisheries Agency has pushed the myth that whales are responsible for the decline of fish stocks around the world. The reasoning goes: We need to kill the whales so we will have fish to kill.

But guess who’s really eating all the fish? If you guessed Japan and other developed nations in Europe and the US, you would indeed get a big prize. (But probably not from the Japan Fisheries Agency.)

A number of noted fisheries scientists have proven for years that the decline of commercial fish stocks around the world has been caused by the rapacious catch of fish by many fishing nations—but the vast bulk of the fish catch is funneled into just a few developed nations. Poorer nations suffer from competition and loss of their own fish stocks as well as the decline in local fishing jobs. The nation with one of the biggest appetites for fish is Japan itself.

“Blaming whales is an issue that is not only false—whales are no more responsible (for the global decline in fish stocks) than the Martians—but which prevents the very small resources of West African countries from being devoted to understanding the real reasons why their fisheries are declining,” stated Dr. Daniel Pauly, director of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.

Dr. Pauly and others have estimated that less than one percent of commercial fishing stocks involve any interactions with ANY marine mammals. Indeed, immensely large stocks of whales coexisted for centuries with much larger stocks of fish around the world. Only with the advent of industrialized fishing methods in the past 50 years (mostly after the period of greatest industrialized whale slaughter had alarmingly reduced cetacean numbers) have fish stocks begun serious declines.

Remi Parmentier, Senior Policy Advisor for the Pew Environment Group’s Whale Project, said Japan has been raising the issue “to scare and recruit countries into supporting its move to end the (whaling) moratorium.”

###

Chile-California Bilateral Agreements

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger met at the University of California at Davis on June 12th to sign bilateral scientific, agriculture, and education agreements between the two Pacific coast states. Whale-watching and marine mammal studies are important industries in both places.

The two most dynamic economies in South and North America have been developing strong ties in recent decades because of their similar geography and climate—but opposite growing and tourist seasons.

Whale-watching was launched in California in the 1960s and is now a worldwide phenomenon generating billions of dollars annually on every continent. Chile has a rapidly-developing whale-watching industry along its 2,700-mile coast, especially since more than 200 blue whales have arrived in recent years. California’s whale-watching industry has bases in dozens of coastal communities stretching nearly 1,000 miles from San Diego to Eureka, focused on gray whales during the winter and spring months, and feeding humpback and blue whales during the spring, summer, and fall.

Universities in California have been educating Chilean scientists and agricultural specialists for decades. This training has been crucial to the booming Chilean agricultural economy and for the conservation of Chile’s marine resources such as fish and whales.

U.S. conservation groups and the California whale-watching industry are pledging to lend their expertise to Chile’s growing tourism industry. They are encouraging “The Governator” to visit President Bachelet later this year to help promote Chile’s new nationwide whale sanctuary.

###

A Bit of History from Dr. Sidney Holt

Correspondents have written to say I am too pessimistic in writing that if Japanese interests decide to invest in a new, bigger factory ship, “we can all give up on the idea of commercial pelagic whaling ending in less than, say twenty years.”

Perhaps.

In 1960 the IWC decided in principle to reduce the Antarctic baleen whale catch limit to sustainable levels, beginning in 1964, although Japan objected to that decision. (As it later objected to the 1974 decision to institute a new Management Procedure, in the wake of the UN Resolution calling for a ten-year moratorium on commercial whaling.) In 1962 the scientists said such reduction was extremely urgent, more so than had been thought. From 1963, Japan opposed all proposals for reduction, and the Commission’s Verbatim Records reveal that the reason repeatedly given was that big investments had been made in several new Antarctic expeditions and that catches had to be big enough to justify those, financially. The Netherlands, with only one expedition, made the same complaint, understandably, because a catch limit reduction meant they would be out of business—which they soon were. The USSR made similar noises but did not press very hard on this matter. Japan then, as now, repeatedly threatened to leave the IWC. It was the first delegation, on every occasion, to lodge objections to each voted catch reduction, following which the other “pelagic” countries necessarily followed suit.

This practice—resistance to conservation, objections and threats—continued through the 1970s. Has Japan, the wayward leopard, changed its business spots?

Wednesday June 25, 2008


ECO No. 2

Japan’s Stolen Whalemeat Scandal

Activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki of Greenpeace Japan investigated and documented an amazing whalemeat scandal going on under the very noses of the Japan Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR). Their documentation was submitted to government authorities requesting a full investigation and prosecution of the guilty parties.

So what did Japanese police do? Early Friday morning, June 20th, they broke down the door of Greenpeace offices, rifled through the office papers, seized computers and documents, and arrested the two Greenpeace activists who presented the information to the police in the first place.

What is their crime? No one knows, as the Japanese authorities have not yet filed any charges, and a court was told that charges would not be filed for at least ten days.

“This is the backlash,” said Greenpeace Japan Executive Director Jun Hoshikawa. “We’ve uncovered a scandal involving powerful forces in the Japanese government that benefit from whaling, and it’s not surprising they are striking back. What is surprising is that these activists, who are innocent of any crime, would be arrested for returning whale meat that was stolen from Japanese taxpayers. In whose interest were these arrests made? Because it would appear to us that this is an intimidation tactic by the government agencies responsible for a scandal.”

For four months, the Greenpeace activists have been investigating the theft of boxes of whalemeat from the so-called “scientific” whaling scheme. Boxes marked “cardboard” were unloaded from the whale factory ship Nisshin Maru and spirited off in an unmarked truck, destined to be sold by individuals from the company and crew. The offloading of these boxes of whalemeat, each box estimated to be worth US$3,000 on the market, was conducted in plain view of the whaling company’s representatives and fellow crewmembers. Apparently, this theft of whalemeat has been going on for decades.

The Greenpeace activists intercepted one of the boxes, addressed to a private address, in order to document the thefts taking place. This box of whalemeat, along with the documentation of the scandal, was turned over to the Public Prosecutor in Tokyo by the activists on May 15th, along with their assurances that the Greenpeace investigators would fully cooperate with authorities.

Greenpeace notes that additional allegations from the whaling scheme informers include:
• Throwing tons of whale meat overboard daily because they did not have processing capacity for the increased quotas.
• Cancerous tumours being found and cut out of whales and the remaining meat processed for public sale.
• Targeted hunts to ensure maximum catch, not random “sampling” as required by the research permits.
• Very bad working conditions because of the increased workload from the increased quotas.

As a final irony, the Tokyo District Prosecutor Office announced on June 21st that it has been unable to find evidence of the embezzlement and that the investigation into ICR, the crew, and whaling officials has therefore been dropped.

“The whaling program in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is funded by the Japanese taxpayers, including the Greenpeace activists who have been arrested, and they have a right to know who is profiting from their money,” said Mr. Hoshikawa.

“The Japanese whaling program has been shamed internationally for its lack of scientific credibility, now it is being shamed at home as well for trying to hide the corruption, and now for taking revenge on those who have exposed it. The Greenpeace activists should be immediately released.”

Greenpeace is asking the public to contact the Japanese Prime Minister and Foreign Minister urging the release of the activists and an end to taxpayer-funded whaling.

# # #

A Message from Dr. Sidney Holt

While speculation in the Santiago corridors and on the Internet is rife about what the US Commissioner might be up to in “dealing” with Japan, little attention seems being given to what the Japanese whaling and whale-meat trading interests are doing. I have a suggestion: they are considering whether to abandon pelagic whaling—“scientific” or other—or to finance the construction of another, bigger factory-ship plus up-to-date catchers. If they chose the latter I think we can all give up on the idea of commercial pelagic whaling ending in less than, say twenty years.

The new Japanese factory ship, under discussion, will be expensive. It must be big enough to handle full-grown fin whales—which are necessarily the prime target of any substantial expansion (and perhaps the occasional blue whale or pygmy blue, and some Bryde’s) — and to fully process the carcasses, neither of which can be done by their current whaling mother ship, Nisshin Maru. A new factory needs to have at least double the freezing/storage capacity of Nisshin Maru or substantially more if they are to be able to dispense with the auxiliary vessel(s) that in mid-season bring fuel oil and take away the frozen meat. The Japanese interests can have little hope of securing a modification of Schedule paragraph 10(e), so further expansion of Special Permit whaling is the way ahead, justified, as always, by the declared aim of studying the inter-relationships among whale species as well as their predation on fishes. Something like that is, after all, why the Government of Japan worked so hard, for several decades, especially to acquire a virtual whaling monopoly of the Southern Ocean.

But suppose they chose the former option? The Japan Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) is already facing severe financial troubles from which they can only escape by producing much more meat and selling it at a lower price. The costs of doing that are considerable, especially as they probably cannot rely forever on soft loans and “scientific” subsidy, and they have to invest in propaganda to persuade the young generation to eat lots of whale meat. That generation is also only now becoming aware of the fact that the whaling is heavily subsidized at public expense, and the Greenpeace Japan revelation of the scam by which factory ship crew are allowed to take significant quantities of unrecorded meat off for sale cannot be helpful to ICR and the traders. Accountants and banks are getting worried about all this, and might not be too happy to fund the next generation of pelagic whalers. And even miracles might happen: the ICR folks might at last begin to be a bit ashamed about permit whaling programmes never attaining their declared objectives (See the circulated Report of Paciano II, a conversation among scientists sponsored by the UK charity Global Ocean.)

If the former option is decided we can be sure that strenuous efforts will be made by the Government to appeal to the international community to be constructive, and offer the very deals that many suspect some “like-minded” Governments are contemplating—close a blind eye, or even legitimize, Small-type Coastal Whaling, with arbitrary catch limits (applying the RMP probably wouldn’t provide sufficient catch to feed a very limited and expensive minke meat market to keep well-off older people happy, even if it continues to be topped-up by some minke whales that foolishly happen to find their way into Korean fishing gear). It will be interesting, if so, to see how many “like-mindeds” take the bait.

And if the bean-counters do their job well, it would be nice to see the ICR down-sized or even closed down and its employees released on small pensions.

# # #

US Passes Resolution Opposing Whaling

In yesterday’s ECO, we reported that two resolutions had been introduced into the US Congress opposing a US position at the IWC of support for any commercial or coastal whaling.

HCR 350 was passed unanimously by the full House of Representatives on June 18th.

According to the Animal Welfare Institute, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall and eight of his colleagues introduced the resolution to send the message that the United States must not be bullied into submission at the meeting by pro-whaling interests.

“This resolution serves to put the United States back on track and reaffirm its historically strong position in support of the whales. As current chair of the IWC; the United States holds a very important role and must extend all efforts to refocus the body toward its much-needed conservation aims,” said AWI Research Associate Susan Millward.

# # #

Japan Warns Citizens about Whales

It appears that whales are not only eating all of the fish in the world’s oceans, they have now started roaming the back alleys of Santiago and the hallways of the Sheraton Hotel, on the prowl for Japanese tourists!

Japan’s foreign office has issued a citizen’s advisory to Japanese tourists who may be visiting Santiago coincidental to the IWC meeting.

According to ABC news, Japanese have been told “to take care during the IWC meeting, where Japan’s whaling programs are expected to again face fierce criticism.

“The warning says Japanese people should not draw attention to themselves, they should avoid going to the five-star hotel where the IWC meeting is being held, and to steer clear of anti-whaling rallies.”

Furthermore, “(t)he guidelines also warn against going out at night, and to refrain from talking carelessly about whaling in front of other people.”

# # #

Documentary on Japan’s Coastal Dolphin Kill

The Ocean Protection Society (OPS) is in Chile to release a shocking new video of the cruel slaughter of dolphins by Japanese whalers. Japan is seeking permission from the IWC to conduct commercial whaling off their shores.

“Dolphins and porpoises are whales, and size doesn’t matter,” says Louie Psihoyos, Director of OPS. “This short film will shed light on the truth the Japanese whalers don’t want the world to see.”

“The dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, is the most horrendous thing I have ever seen in my life,” states Ric O’Barry, Director of Save Japan Dolphins Coalition. “How can the IWC be considering opening up commercial coastal whaling in Japan, which would result in more slaughtered whales and more slaughtered dolphins?”

“Recently, in defiance of both the IWC and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Japan imported whale meat from Iceland and Norway,” notes David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute. “How can the IWC trust Japan, which kills dolphins in the most cruel manner imaginable, slaughters whales in the name of science despite the moratorium, and now illegally trades whale meat?”

The full feature-length documentary will be released in theaters in 2009.

# # #

Dolphin-safe Tuna Remains Safe

In August 2007, the Bush Administration ended litigation against the dolphins by deciding it would not appeal a court order prohibiting the weakening of the Dolphin-Safe tuna label.

“At long last the Dolphin Safe label for tuna is safe from the Bush Administration’s legal attacks,” stated David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute. “After six years of litigation, the Administration has realized it must follow the law and cease efforts to allow dolphin-deadly tuna from Mexico onto US supermarket shelves.”

On April 27th, 2007, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a unanimous judgment against the Bush Administration in ruling that the Commerce Department based its efforts to weaken the standards for determining if tuna is “Dolphin Safe” on political issues, not science.

“Congress required the Bush Administration to base their decision about the standards of the Dolphin Safe tuna label on science,” Phillips continued. “But the pressure from the State Department and the Mexican government to gut dolphin protections was enormous. The 9th circuit ruled unanimously—once again—against the Bush Administration.”

US District court Judge Thelton Henderson has issued two major rulings on the Dolphin Safe label alone, including his statement, noted in the 9th Circuit court ruling: “This court has never, in its 24 years, reviewed a record of an agency action that contained such a compelling portrait of political meddling. This portrait is chronicled in documents which show that both Mexico and the United State Department of State ... engaged in a persistent effort to influence both the process and the ultimate finding, and that the high ranking officials [sic] in the Department of Commerce were willing to heed these influences notwithstanding the scientific evidence to the contrary.”

# # #

Noted in Passing:

For the umpteenth time yesterday, Japan’s IWC Chair, in his opening remarks, once again threatened to leave the IWC if Japan’s whalers don’t get their way.

Isn’t it wonderful to be part of this new spirit of cooperation and compromise?

Tuesday June 24, 2008


Secret Scheme to Support Commercial Whaling

What are the US delegation and its leader, William Hogarth, up to? Every US delegation, from Richard Nixon to Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton to Ronald Reagan, has strongly upheld opposition to commercial whaling. Now the US, in the last year of President George Bush’s presidency, is trying to cut a deal behind closed doors to allow Japan to engage in commercial whaling in spite of the IWC moratorium.

While the US delegation continues to give lip service to support for the whaling moratorium, Dr. Hogarth has apparently been negotiating, according to the Japanese, to reinstate the “normalization” of the IWC and a return to commercial whaling, even if such whaling is called something else.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “a backroom deal designed to restore Japan’s right to commercial whaling is behind its decision to spare humpback whales from its Antarctic hunt.

“Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Masahiko Koumura, has detailed a bargain with the US chairman of the (IWC) to ‘review’ the contentious kill of humpbacks from Australian stocks.”

The Herald article notes that “Japan wants to ‘normalise’ the organisation by returning to its 1946 purpose of regulating whaling, and lifting the global moratorium against the industry…”

NGO participants in phone calls with Dr. Hogarth have received similar hints of an impending deal that would allow commercial whaling and allow a new category, “community-based whaling”, that would bypass the moratorium and allow Japan to add commercial whaling for minke whales to their already expansive annual coastal dolphin slaughter.

Japan’s IWC leader Minoru Morimoto stated bluntly, in an editorial in the Herald on 1/16/08, that “(w)haling will continue around the world and Australia has a choice: participate in a calm and rational manner in discussions to manage whale resources within the commission or be left out of a new organization that will manage whaling…”

“I fully respect the right of Australians to oppose whaling for some ‘cuddly’ reason,” concluded Morimoto, “but this does not give them the right to coerce others to end a perfectly legal and culturally significant activity…”

Dr. Hogarth dodged questions about any deals at a recent Congressional hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee. He insisted the US would continue to oppose commercial whaling, yet also alluded to efforts to reach consensus in the IWC to “move forward” and “reduce killing of whales” rather than end killing of whales altogether.

As Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) stated, speaking for the US conservation community in his testimony before the Committee, “the good people of Japan and the citizens of the United States share at least one problem in common: the approaches currently pursued by our respective delegations to the IWC do not accurately reflect the will of our people.”

Ramage added that he could not conceive the US ever buying into an agreement to resume commercial whaling as outlined by Hogarth. Such a deal would turn 60 years of whale conservation on its head, would violate the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, and would be entirely inconsistent with US public opinion, he stated.


Iceland and Japan’s Illegal Trade in Whale Meat

Question: Why were the Icelanders crying?

Answer: You’d cry too if all you had to eat was blubber.

OK, you’ve heard that one before…

But trade in illegal whale blubber became a reality when, just weeks before the start of the IWC meeting, Iceland and Norway shipped 80 tons of endangered fin whale meat and 5 tons of minke whale meat to Japan.

Trade in whale meat is banned by both the IWC and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Conveniently, Japan, Norway and Iceland have refused to recognize the two treaties.

Kristjan Loftsson, the notorious CEO of Iceland’s whaling company, defended the trade, apparently conducted by him with the blessings of Iceland’s fisheries agency without the knowledge of the rest of Iceland’s government. It is not even clear if Japan was aware of the trade, with the Japanese embassy in Oslo claiming that no import license was approved by or requested from Japan.

In a new study published by Icelandic scientists, working for the Icelandic Marine Research Institute, sponsored by the Icelandic government, the minke whale population off Iceland is now estimated to be only 10,000 to 15,000, based on sightings surveys, only 24% of the number estimated in 2001.

The return of Iceland to commercial whaling had already been criticized by many in Iceland, including Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, who said: “I believe this is sacrificing long term interests for short term gains, despite the quota being smaller than in previous years.”

Loftsson claims the fin whale meat was caught in 2006 and kept frozen for export. “I have had lots of calls from Japan asking me where they can buy the fin meat,” he told Kyodo News. “It is similar to Kobe beef.” He further told Kyodo that he did not expect any problems and that the meat would soon be on supermarket shelves in Japan. He added: “This trade will be mutually beneficial for the three main whaling countries.”

A number of countries were outraged to hear about the illegal trade, coming at a time when the IWC has been engaged in detailed discussions about the future of the IWC and the need for cooperation to find agreement. “The United States is deeply disappointed in the reports of recent shipments of whale meat to Japanese commercial markets from Iceland and Norway,” stated Kurtis Cooper of the US State Department.

But the import of the whale meat by Japan from Norway and Iceland proves, once again, that whaling countries can never be trusted to abide by any rules whatsoever. Allowing these countries to engage in commercial whaling and trading in whale meat again, in violation of the international moratorium, would not just harm whales killed in a legal manner—it would allow the unfettered slaughter of all whales in all oceans by an industry immune to legal ethics.


Chilean President Outlaws Whaling

To a unanimous ovation of Congress, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced that she would send legislation to parliament banning all whaling in that country’s waters and the establishment of a new whale sanctuary.

President Bachelet also stated Chile’s strong opposition to scientific whaling as conducted by Japan. “Chile will oppose any capture and death of whales with scientific purposes during the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission.”


Japan’s Outlaw Whalers Massacred Chile’s Endangered Whales

Japanese whaling companies evaded the IWC ban on killing blue, humpback and right whales by setting up unregulated whaling stations on the southern coast of Chile in the mid-1960’s, according to historical records.

More than 700 of the highly-endangered marine mammals were harpooned in Chilean waters by Japanese catcher boats over a four-year period between 1964 and 1968, virtually wiping out the remaining stocks in the eastern South Pacific.

Chile was not a member of the IWC at the time, so any whaling there was outside of IWC quotas or bans.

The Japanese whalers moved into Chile in 1964 because the IWC that year banned all blue whaling. For years, Japan had bitterly resisted proposals to halt the killing of blue whales despite the plummeting catches of the huge animal. The Japanese government only acquiesced after the seven Japanese pelagic fleets—including more than 100 catcher boats—could not find a single blue whale in the 1963-64 Antarctic season.

But the Japanese whalers knew that a remnant population of blue whales survived in the sheltering fjords of southern Chile, the mating and calving grounds for whales. So beginning in 1964 the Japanese government quietly licensed its whaling companies to set up shore stations along the Chilean coast. Sources in Tokyo report that the Japanese government even financed the construction of the factories where whale carcasses were towed for processing.

A ruthless massacre of 690 blue whales took place over the next four years. Mother blue whales and their calves were pursued deep into the long fjords, where the still, icy blue waters were stained red by the harpooned giants. And even rarer whales were hunted down: 13 humpbacks and 3 Southern Right whales, both species “protected” under IWC rules.

The outlaw whalers did not limit themselves to highly-endangered species. The Japanese killer boats also harpooned more than 1,600 fin and sei whales, and more than 1,500 sperm whales, all outside the IWC quota system.

Japanese refrigerator ships transported all the whale meat and oil back to Japan, where government agencies raised no objections to the imports of “protected” species. The Chilean shore stations shut down in 1969 when the local whale populations had reached “commercial extinction,” a coldly economic term used to describe a resource that is too depleted to exploit profitably.

Tens of thousands of blue, humpback, fin and right whales once populated Chile’s southern waters where they wintered after feeding each summer in the krill-rich Antarctic seas. The vast pelagic whaling fleets of the last century, led by Japan, the Soviet Union and Norway, systematically destroyed the great whale stocks of the Southern Ocean. And then the Japanese whalers finished off the few survivors hiding along Chile’s coast.

The Japanese government should be called to account for this tragedy. Its complicity in licensing and financing the outlaw whaling in Chile—and authorizing of import of the plundered whale meat and oil—spreads the bloody stains from the Chilean fjords all the way to Tokyo harbor.


Spare Yen?

Don’t be surprised if you see representatives of the Japan Institute of Cetacean Research outside the hotel begging for money.

A story in the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun revealed that the whaling folks owed the Japanese government 1 billion yen.

Apparently, since 2000, the government affiliated Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation has loaned expensive interest-free loans to the research whaling scheme, to be paid back by sales of whale meat. In 2006, the Institute was loaned 3.6 billion yen to finance the “scientific” whaling operations in Antarctica.

However, a glut of whale meat (resulting in a drop in price of 20%), accidents aboard the whaling vessels in the Antarctic (including a devastating fire), plus harassment by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society boats led to a severe decrease in meat revenues. The Institute posted a loss of 700 million yen in 2006, with additional tens of millions of yen in payments to the government going unpaid.

Japanese taxpayers may want an explanation. As few eat whale meat on the Japanese market, just what are Japanese taxes going for?


US Congress Opposes All Whaling

Two resolutions have been introduced into the US Congress opposing all whaling. The resolutions state: “commercial whaling in any form, including special permit whaling and any coastal or community-based whaling, undermines the conservation mandate of the Convention and impairs the Commission’s ability to function effectively.”

Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has introduced HCR 350. In the Senate, Senator John Kerry and Barbara Boxer introduced SCR 86.

The resolutions include the sense of Congress that the US must “oppose any initiative that would result in any new, Commission-sanctioned coastal or community-based whale hunting, even if the whale hunting is portrayed as noncommercial and including any commercial whaling by coastal communities that does not qualify as aboriginal subsistence whaling…”

Both resolutions are expected to pass with unanimous support.


EU United in Opposing Whaling

On June 5th, the European Union voted unanimously, with one abstention, to oppose any commercial whaling at the IWC meeting this year. (Denmark, which has whaling issues in the Faroe Islands and Greenland, was the one abstention.)

The 27-member nations called for continued support for the commercial whaling moratorium, for new whale sanctuaries, and to encourage non-lethal whale research.

Stated the EU’s Executive Commission: “There is no need to kill to obtain scientific information about whales,” a strong rebuke to the “research” whaling scheme of the Japan Fisheries Agency.

“The international ban on commercial whaling must stay and more efforts need to be made internationally to protect whale species,” the EU stated.


IWC Vote Buying


As if it were still a secret, revelations of the continuing vote buying at the IWC—essentially, Japan offering fisheries aid to small, poor countries in exchange for their attendance and support for whaling at the IWC—continued this year.

National Geographic News revealed that a 1987 report on a symposium held with Pacific island countries “recorded a representative of the Fisheries Agency of Japan telling participants that money to support fisheries comes with certain stipulations.”

According to National Geographic News, the report states: “When the Japanese government selects the countries to which it provides fisheries grants, criteria includes that the recipient country must have a fisheries agreement with Japan, and it must take a supportive position to Japan in various international organizations.”

Prime Minister Derek Skua of the Solomon Islands confirmed, according to the Melbourne Age, “We are not attending (the IWC Intercessional in London) because usually Japan pays for our attendance, but we refused their assistance and therefore we have not gone because we can’t afford it.” The minister spoke at a joint press conference in the Solomons with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

And just a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, announced that his government would no longer support Japan’s position in favor of whaling at the IWC. Stated Minister Skerrit, according to Associated Press, the decision is “in the best interest of Dominica.” The story noted that Dominica has received considerable aid from Japan over the past eight years for its fisheries.

Japan is still trying to recruit new countries to support it. National Geographic News revealed that, in early March, Japan had invited representatives from 12 developing countries, several that are not members of the IWC, including Eritrea, Congo, Tanzania, Angola, and Micronesia, to Tokyo to gain “understanding of Japan’s position on sustainable whaling.”

Friday June 20, 2008

Back Issues of ECO - Cutting-Edge Environmental Coverage from the IWC!

whale woodcut