From Gray Whales with Winston
July 31, 2001 atimes.com
Japanese blase over 'bribes'
By Edwin Karmiol
TOKYO - Accusations that Japan is using its mammoth aid funds to get small
nations to back its position on whaling may be creating ripples overseas,
but here at home the subject has made very little waves. There has been
little comment on this in the local press, and replies from the government
to media inquiries have not come easily.
"Very honest but a little stupid" is how an academic here described remarks
made earlier this month by a Japanese official, who said Tokyo uses its
influence with the promise of aid to developing countries to favor
Last week, small nations, including from the Caribbean, voted along with
Japan, Norway, China, Denmark and South Korea to defeat, for the second year
in a row, a proposal to create a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific at the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting week in London.
"Japan does not have military power, unlike the United States and Australia.
You may dispatch military power to East Timor, but that is not the case for
Japan. Our means is diplomatic communication and Overseas Development
Assistance," Fisheries Agency official Maseyuku Komatsu told Australian ABC
While the remarks by Komatsu were frank, they were a "mistake", says
Yoshinori Murai, a professor of foreign studies at Tokyo's Sophia University
who is also involved in ocean resources research. The comments were "very
embarrassing to the international community and for the Japanese
government", he explains.
In response to media inquiries, a Fisheries Agency of Japan official said
all staff in charge of whaling were attending the IWC meeting and there was
no one "with responsibility" who could answer queries about Japan's
position. Reports say the Fisheries Agency has issued an internal memorandum
saying that a check with Komatsu found that "there was no truth" to remarks
attributed to him on record. It also said the ABC report gives the
impression that "a country's policy can be traded for money and insults the
recipients of our aid".
An earlier response by the Japanese Whaling Association to Greenpeace
International's criticism denies that Tokyo gives aid to influence countries
"Japan is the largest donor of foreign aid worldwide, and among some 200
recipients of the ODA or Fisheries Development Funds from Japan are some
strong anti-whaling nations in IWC such as India, Brazil Argentina and
Peru." While some Caribbean nations that support Japan do receive Fisheries
Development Assistance from Tokyo, "the money is not sent to them for
'buying votes'," it added.
Clearly, this is a touchy issue for Japan's government, at a time when Tokyo
is trying to be more of a leader in the international community and its
overseas aid program is supposed to be more transparent. But there may be
other reasons for Japan's silence on the matter. Noriko Oyama of Greenpeace
says, "Most Japanese are not interested in whaling issues. They really do
not care about it. Eighty percent of the population considers the price of
whale meat too expensive."
An analyst here watching the whaling controversy called Komatsu's remarks an
indication of "fisheries diplomacy". He added: "As common sense, no country
gives money for nothing. Here, Japan is asking for some kind of compensation
in return for a favor."
Officials of some governments to whom Japan has dangled the aid carrot in
recent years had different reactions. A Tongan official earlier this year
his government had been approached this way, but said aid and whaling were
two "separate" matters.
But others say Japan's approach is mere pragmatism and perhaps no different
from other donors on other issues. Last weekend, the Prime Minister of
Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird, told the Caribbean news agency CANA his
government would back whaling due to considerations of Japan's aid.
"Quite frankly I make no bones about it ... If we are able to support the
Japanese, and the quid pro quo is that they are going to give us some
assistance, I am not going to be a hypocrite," he was quoted as saying.
Murai says of the quid pro quo formula: "However, it is not a clear bribe
but a promise of aid to a country, and the offer could be very attractive."
It is easy to recognize the power of Japan's official development
assistance, which accounted for some 30 percent of the world's total ODA
last year. For fiscal year 2001, Japan has earmarked US$8.3 billion for
Murai adds that Japan's government and the whaling industry are very strong
here. Japan believes its official studies that confirm the increase of some
whale populations, which it says would make sustainable use of these
Japan, like Norway, says its consumption of whale meat follows tradition.
The Japanese Whaling Association argues that Greenpeace believes "the
killing of any whale is evil", even if better management of ocean resources
requires a multi-species environment, adding that it does not go after
But claims about whale meat, now a luxury food, may apply to a smaller
number of people in Japan, where the older generation remembers how
nutritious whale meat was abundant and inexpensive. Today, Kujiraya is the
only restaurant in Tokyo that exclusively serves whale meat. The owner of
the 51-year-old restaurant says 200 to 300 patrons come daily for whale
steak and whale sashimi dressed with soya and horseradish. He also offers
The price varies between 1,300 and 1,600 yen (US$11-$13) per hundred grams.
In other areas, chefs prepare sashimi with the testicles of whales.
Every year since 1987, a fleet of Japanese research ships operates in the
waters of the Antarctic and North Pacific and harpoons up to a total of 500
minke whales under the category of scientific research. Opponents claim that
these are actually designed to provide whale meat to the dwindling
specialized restaurants on the archipelago.
But the natural course of events may yet determine the degree of demand for
whale meat products in future.
In Taiji in Wakayama prefecture in southern Japan - known as the birthplace
of Japan's commercial whaling - only a handful of fishermen today are still
involved in the capture of small whales which are not prohibited by the IWC.
An earlier report by Japan's Kyodo news agency says that in the 1960s, Taiji
whalers caught about 6,000 whales annually in the Antarctic. This provided
200,000 tons of whale meat, enough to feed 10 million Japanese.
But now, officials recruiting young people for "scientific whaling" are
finding it hard to find people keen on it. Taiji's younger folk are in no
mood to take up whaling - which they consider a "3K" occupation, kitanai
(dirty), kitsui (hard) and and kiken (dangerous.) Even Taiji children are
now reluctant to eat whale meat because, the Kyodo report says, they say
"it's a pity to kill whales and dolphins".
(Inter Press Service)
July 31, 2001 atimes.com
Whales safe for now, but for how long?
By Samanta Sen
LONDON - Thousands of the world's whales are still safe after the annual
meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ended inconclusively
in London on Friday. But environmentalists fear that safety might last only
another year or so.
In a year's time, they say, the commission could find itself looking at
increased pressure for the reversal of a current ban on the commercial
hunting of whales.
One of the most acrimonious weeks in the days of the whaling commission
ended with the divide over whaling stronger than ever Friday, as Japan and
Norway insisted on continuing to kill whales. The rest of the IWC members,
led by Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States continued to
support the moratorium on commercial hunting of whales set by the commission
Officially speaking, only about 1,200 minke whales are killed each year,
almost entirely by Norway and Japan. But the week-long conference here was
marked by heated disputes over these numbers. The Japanese said they were
whaling a few hundred out of a trillion, while the New Zealanders said it
could be many more than a few hundred among about 250,000 or so minke
After this year's meeting, the danger to whales will arise next year when
the whaling commission holds its annual meeting in Tokyo, Ben Stewart from
the International Fund For Animal Welfare said in an interview. "Given the
vote-buying policy of Japan they are likely to generate majority support for
a return to commercial whaling," he said.
Many of the poor among the 43 member countries of the commission, including
six small Caribbean states, voted with Japan this week in what Stewart
called "an auction, not a vote".
Japan's tactics stirred up a storm earlier this month, after a Japanese
fisheries agency official virtually admitted to giving aid in exchange for
support for its whaling policies. Masayuki Komatsu told the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation ahead of the meeting that Japan has a right to use
its economic powers to persuade countries from opposing the ban on whaling.
Minke whales, he said, had become the "cockroaches of the ocean" and could
be used by whaling nations in a sustainable way. Japanese officials say that
whale meat consumption is part of its tradition and that other countries
should respect this cultural factor.
Komatsu said that Japan had to use the "tools of diplomatic communications
and promises of overseas development aid to influence members of the
International Whaling Commission". Japan, he said, does not have military
powers unlike the United States or Australia. "In order to get appreciation
of Japan's position, of course, it is natural we must resort to those two
major tools," he said.
Japan won the support of six Caribbean countries, the Solomon Islands and
Guinea with such "persuasion" - persuasion that countries like Antigua and
Barbuda conceded and called a pragmatic quid pro quo situation. This year at
least three other countries getting substantial Japanese aid - Peru, Morocco
and Panama - are joining the commission.
Japan undertakes annual whale hunts under a clause that permits killing
whales for scientific research. The clause goes on to say that once whales
are killed, their meat must be consumed and not allowed to go to waste.
Japan says it consumes whale meat - an expensive delicacy - only as a
byproduct of research.
This position is "brazenly arrogant", said Stewart. "Japan is working not on
the strength of its argument but on the strength of its currency."
Last week, the commission voted 21-14 for a resolution urging Japan to stop
its scientific kills of Antarctic minkes. It also passed a resolution by
21-15 urging Norway "to halt immediately all whaling activities under its
jurisdiction". But both countries said they would continue to kill whales on
a "sustainable" basis.
Japan and Norway failed to overturn the ban on commercial whaling, but
blocked a proposal led by Brazil, Australia and New Zealand to create
sanctuaries for whales in the Pacific and the Atlantic. The proposal needed
a three-quarters vote to succeed but managed to get only about two-thirds.
Twenty countries voted for the South Pacific sanctuary, 13 voted against and
four abstained. In the South Atlantic vote, 19 countries favored the
sanctuary, 13 were against and five abstained.
The week-long conference was a week of repeated battles between the two
camps. The first battleground was Iceland, which lost a bid to be readmitted
into the whaling commission. But Iceland, which quit in 1992, insisted on
joining with a reservation clause that would give it the right to continue
whaling as a commission member. It sought protection of a clause Norway
invokes to continue whaling as a member of the commission. Under this
clause, Norway claims that the ban does not apply because it posted a
reservation when the ban took effect.
An Indian delegate said the vote over Iceland was fought furiously. "I had
calls from delegates from Japan and Norway and from almost every country
backing them," he told IPS. "They wanted us to abstain, but that vote was
won by a single vote, and abstaining would have given the whaling camp a
But Iceland Fisheries Minister Arni Mathiesen said that the refusal of its
application to rejoin the IWC would have no effect on its whaling policy.
The vote of the whaling commission is not legally binding on members or on
non-members. But the commission carries considerable clout as a trade and
environmental body with strong backing from the governments of member
Even with its loopholes, the ban on commercial whaling has meant protection
for many species of whales, supporters of the ban say. "You can bet your
bottom dollar that if it were not for this ban, Japan and Norway would kill
a lot more whales," said Stewart.
The balance at the commission this time was about 50:50. It might not stay
that way after Tokyo.
(Inter Press Service)
POSTED AT 1:04 AM EDT Monday, July 30
WWF backs limited whaling
Reuters News Agency
Sydney - Conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature said on Monday a
return to limited whaling may be necessary to stop the collapse of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) and a return to the open slaughter of
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the just completed IWC meeting in
London was a "disaster" with whaling nations again defeating a proposed
South Pacific whale sanctuary and thumbing their noses at a 1986 IWC
commercial whaling moratorium.
WWF warned the International Whaling Commission was near collapse as member
whaling nations like Japan and Norway ignore the whaling moratorium and move
to gain control of the IWC, which once regulated commercial whaling but now
acts as a conservation body.
"It seems that limited commercial whaling may be the only way to bring the
whaling countries back into a sensible, controlled program of the IWC," Ray
Nias, WWF deputy chief executive officer, told Australian Broadcasting
Corporation radio. "Otherwise it looks as though they are going to continue
to stack the numbers at the IWC. The anti-whaling nations are having no
impact at all at the moment on commercial whaling."
"Unless the anti-whaling and whaling countries agree on some sort of ...
small commercial whaling, then these whaling countries will simply walk out
or destroy the IWC and we'll be back to uncontrolled, undocumented whaling
on the high seas."
Anti-whaling nations, led by Britain, the United States, Australia and New
Zealand, in London last week questioned the effectiveness of the IWC. But
they said they would continue to support the IWC, fearing uncontrolled
whaling if it collapsed.
As a result of the 16-year whaling moratorium, great whales from the
150-tonne Blue Whale to the 15-tonne Minke are no longer in immediate danger
of extinction. But the Blue and its 90-tonne Northern Right cousin are
classified as endangered, while the Bowhead, Southern Right, Sei, Fin and
Humpback whales are considered vulnerable.
Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (http://www.whoi.edu)
Date: Posted 7/30/2001
Study To Assess Risk Factors Of Vessel Collisions With Endangered Northern
Scientists and engineers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
and their colleagues will use a new digital recording tag to study and
assess the risk factors of vessel collisions with the endangered Northern
right whale. Less than 300 of the whales remain.
Senior Scientist Peter Tyack of the Institution's Biology Department, who is
heading the study with colleagues at the New England Aquarium, says the
primary human-induced causes for right whale deaths are vessel collisions,
which account for 35 percent of the deaths, and entanglement in fishing
gear, which accounts for 5 percent of right whale deaths. Scientists are
currently trying to save a right whale off the Massachusetts coast entangled
in a fishing line.
"Right whales are so buoyant, they float to the surface," Tyack says. "If
this reduces their ability to maneuver, it may pose a risk of collision with
ships. The whales can hear and localize natural sounds very well, but they
have not been observed to respond to oncoming vessels."
The study is supported by a grant from the Mitsubishi Corporation and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's right whale research
program through the National Marine Fisheries Service at NOAA. Collaborators
include the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the New England
"We need to address questions like what age and sex classes, behavioral
contexts or habitats pose the greatest risk," Tyack adds. "What vessel
characteristics, such as speed, maneuvering, and acoustic signature, pose
the greatest risk? The tag will enable us to learn a lot more about how the
whales respond to vessels as they get closer and may eventually help us
develop an acoustic alerting system."
The new study will focus on the behavioral perspective, using the digital
acoustic recording tag to measure sound stimuli with vocal, behavioral and
physiological responses. The researchers will also follow whale responses to
uncontrolled vessel approaches, playbacks of natural sound, and controlled
exposure to vessel noise during vessel approach. They will also assess the
distribution and abundance of right whales in the western North Atlantic and
collect photographs of individual whales, which can be identified by natural
markings called callosities. These data will be integrated into a database
to update information on population status, reproduction, mortality,
human-caused scarring, and other factors.
Tyack and his colleagues note that the Northern Atlantic right whale is an
endangered population, with less than 300 individuals remaining. Extinction
is likely in 100 years unless reproduction increases or mortality decreases.
The population is only growing at a rate of 1-2 percent, while the South
Atlantic right whale population is growing at a rate of seven percent.
"Our ignorance of the reproductive behavior and the mating system of right
whales is so profound that we do not even know the season and location where
mating takes place," Tyack notes. "This hinders our ability to determine the
effects of disturbances like vessels and to minimize them. We hope this
study will help provide data critical to understanding reproduction in ways
that may point to how we can enhance the recovery of this most endangered of
baleen whales. "
Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Corporation is a trading and investment company
engaged in a broad range of businesses, including information technology and
electronics, energy, metals, machinery, chemicals and Living Essentials. As
one of the world's most diverse business enterprises, Mitsubishi
Corporation, works closely with its global clientele to develop new
businesses through project coordination, sourcing of raw materials, capital
investments, and global marketing and distribution.
Aussie Police Blow Up Dead Whale
Tue 31 Jul 2001
ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) - Explosive experts gave sharks and other
scavengers a helping hand by blowing up the carcass of a whale to speed up
disposal of the body.
Police detonated three small charges in the carcass of a Southern Right
whale because of concerns it was an environmental hazard. The explosion late
Monday left a large tear in the carcass which will make it easier for sharks
to rip up and eat, officials said Tuesday.
``It will give marine scavengers a better chance of doing what they do best,
which is to clean up dead and decaying material in the ocean,'' government
spokesman Arndrae Luks said.
The carcass, which has been off South Australia state's coast for about two
weeks, had become a tourist attraction, with people hiring boats to watch
sharks feed on it. Tourism authorities said some sightseers clambered on the
whale and patted great white sharks eating the carcass.
The whale was believed to have died of natural causes
USA - Whale fatally struck by vessel
A dead whale found off Staten Island had suffered a fatal skull fracture
after it was struck by a large ship, authorities said yesterday. It was the
eighth time a whale had been killed by a vessel in New York-New Jersey
waters during the past year.
The Riverhead Foundation, which runs the local stranding program, said that
it normally only deals with one whale death each year.
A few years ago, the film "Free Willy" introduced many to the waters around
the beautiful San Juan Islands. For 26 years, the Centre for Whale Research
on San Juan Island has been documenting the pods of killer whales that
frequent the inland waters of Washington and southern British Columbia,
maintaining a photographic catalogue of every individual as well as
recording the social structure. Among their discoveries: Matriarchs, some
more than 80 years old, continue to dominate the pods. More distressing:
Orca numbers are declining, reflecting a deteriorating marine environment.
The centre shares its research at its site, where you can do a little whale
watching with the roving Orca Cam. If the waters are quiet, you can always
take in an orca video.
BRAZIL TO RENEW PUSH FOR SOUTHERN ATLANTIC WHALE SANCTUARY
Story Filed: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 8:10 AM EST
Rio de Janeiro, Jul 31, 2001 (EFE via COMTEX) -- Brazil will push for the
creation of a whale sanctuary in the southern Atlantic Ocean, although the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) rejected the proposal last week, the
environment ministry said.
Brazil plans to bring up the proposal at next year's IWC meeting in Japan,
Environment Ministry official Antonio de Mello said Monday.
"There's a good chance, not just because we have time to negotiate, but
rather because that's the year of the Rio-plus-10 (summit) and attention
will be focused on environmental issues," he said.
At the recently concluded IWC meeting in London, pro-whaling nations Japan
and Norway, as well as several developing nations, rejected the creation of
whale sanctuaries in the south Pacific Ocean and off the Brazilian coast.
"Brazil had just two months to work together with the other nations on the
committee," De Mello said, explaining the failed vote.
Argentina, Australia, Britain, Italy, New Zealand and the United States
backed Brazil's proposal.
Australia's proposal to create a whale sanctuary in the south Pacific Ocean
Despite a 15-year moratorium on whale hunting, Japan kills some 500 whales
annually as part of an IWC-authorized scientific program.
The whale meat taken by Japanese scientists is sold commercially and
regularly ends up on dinner tables. EFE