International Marine Mammal Project

Earth Island News

EII Victory: Japanese Company Nissui Agrees to Divest Itself of Whaling Interest

International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) declared victory in a series of campaigns aimed at Japan’s whaling industry. On Friday, March 31, 2006, the Japanese company Nissui, owner of whaling ships and a whale meat cannery, announced it would divest its whaling company assets and no longer participate in Japan’s “scientific” whaling scheme.

Nissui owns part of Sealord Tuna, based in New Zealand. As part of its International Dolphin Safe Tuna Monitoring Program, IMMP launched a boycott against Sealord Tuna in New Zealand, urging the company to divest its whaling industry activities.

“The people of New Zealand and Australia refused to buy Sealord Tuna products once they learned that Sealord was involved in whaling,” said IMMP Director David Phillips. “This is the first time we have been able to influence a large Japanese corporation to stop whaling.”

According to media accounts, Sealord tuna sales declined 25 percent in New Zealand during the short boycott.

“Our standards for Dolphin Safe tuna include provisions that a tuna company cannot be involved in other environmentally destructive practices such as whaling,” said Mark Berman, associate director of IMMP. “Our work in New Zealand and Australia publicized the links of Sealord to Nissui and their whale slaughter, and led consumers to take action in the supermarkets across the country.”

In 1985, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), under pressure from the environmental community, instituted a moratorium on commercial whaling. The following whaling season in 1986, Japan’s government countered the move by starting “scientific whaling” to “study” whales. Most observers view Japan’s scientific whaling scheme as a ruse to keep up commercial whaling, as the Nissui Company benefits from the government subsidy of their whaling fleet and cannery, while the meat from the dead whales is sold on the Japanese market. The number of whales killed for Japan’s so-called research has steadily increased, with 900 minke whales expected to be killed this year in the waters of Antarctica alone. The IWC has repeatedly passed resolutions urging Japan to drop its scientific whaling operations.

Greenpeace and other organizations joined Earth Island in the Sealord Tuna boycott. Greenpeace, Humane Society of the US, Environmental Investigation Agency, and other groups had also instituted a boycott of Gorton’s fish products in the US and the UK. Gorton’s is also partially owned by Nissui.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency claims the whaling scheme will continue under government sponsorship.

“This action by Nissui won’t end the Japanese government’s perverse support for slaughtering whales,” noted Phillips. “But it shows that people can profoundly influence the protection of global species by making important choices in the marketplace. Other companies with ties to the exploitation of whales, dolphin-deadly tuna, and other endangered species should take heed that such crimes against nature will not be tolerated by consumers.

Marine Mammals Under Fire in Congress

Two bills to renew the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) are pending in the US House of Representatives, but environmentalists are concerned with several provisions. Calls, faxes and letters to members of the House and Senate are needed to help stop these two bills: HR 2130 by Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and HR 4075 by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), chairman of the House Resources Committee. While the provisions of these bills are fairly narrow, they do adversely impact marine mammals and should not be passed by the House or the Senate.

The MMPA was passed in 1972 to give federal protection to all marine mammals—whales and dolphins, seals and sea lions, sea otters and polar bears. One provision requires the federal National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which implements much of the MMPA, to assess the dangers to marine mammals from commercial fishing practices, such as use of gill nets or fish traps that can entangle and drown marine mammals. For each fishery that has an adverse impact on marine mammals, NMFS is required to form “Take Reduction Teams” of environmentalists, scientists, and representatives of government and fishing interests, to negotiate and explore ways to reduce the incidental take of marine mammals by the fishery. As one can imagine, such a process can be quite prolonged, especially if there are no incentives for fishermen to cooperate in restricting their gear and fishing activity that cause harm. Both HR 2130 and HR 4075, eliminate key deadlines and time-frames in existing law for the Take Reduction Teams to take action, essentially eliminating any teeth in the MMPA for reducing marine mammal deaths from these target commercial fisheries. Without appropriate deadlines for action, the Take Reduction Teams will only work, at best, on a voluntary basis.

Other provisions in both bills weaken restrictions for aquariums and theme parks that possess marine mammals for show. Technically, federal law has deemed such animals to be held by aquariums as a public trust, with actual ownership vested in the federal government for the people of the US. HR 2130 and HR 4075 eliminate some of the federal oversight, substituting words like “ownership” for the captive cetacean industry—in effect, giving away orcas, dolphins and seals to private enterprise.

Dolphin Safe Tuna?

Want to know if the company that sells tuna on your market’s shelves is a member of EII’s Dolphin Safe monitoring program? Want to find out which kinds of dolphin-deadly tuna to avoid and boycott? Go to our new Web site:

Whaling Commission to Meet

IMMP will again be active at this year’s International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting, scheduled for June 16-20, 2006, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. IMMP publishes a daily newsletter, ECO, to provide the IWC delegates and the global media with the viewpoint of the environmental and animal welfare community. This year Japan and Norway, the two remaining whaling nations, will again be pushing for opening commercial whaling, while many conservation-minded nations will be fighting back. You can see daily postings of ECO during the IWC meeting on our Web site at:

Take Action:

Both bills are pending on the House floor, scheduled to be heard on May 15th, so please contact your Representative and Senators to protest these bills and ask for votes AGAINST them. Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121. Ask for your Representative’s and/or Senators’ office. You can look up your Representative online at: For Senators, go to: From Representatives’ and Senators’ home pages, you can often send messages directly to them via e-mail, or get their fax number under their list of contacts. URGE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS TO VOTE NO ON HR 2130 and HR 4075!

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