Dec 21, 2007 6:19:47 GMT -5
Post by Flash on Dec 21, 2007 6:19:47 GMT -5
Japan drops Humpback cull
Hiroshi Oosedo, Tokyo bureau | December 21, 2007
JAPAN has abandoned its plan to hunt as many as 50 humpback whales, according to broadcaster NHK.
"Japan has decided to delist humpbacks from the whaling list for now due to concern about the negative impact on relations with Australia,'' NHK said, quoting unnamed officials.
Whaling expert Junko Sakuma told The Australian's Tokyo office that there had been a hot debate among the government officials over the hunting of humpback whales before the departure of Japan's Nisshin-Maru whaling fleet for Antartica on November 18.
She said facilities aboard the ship indicated there were no facilities to store the remains of 50 Humpback whales -- the original quota suggested by Japan.
These were the reduced number of crew on board the Japanese fleet (the number is 250, down 25 from last season), the capacity of freezers to keep whale meat, and difficulties in reducing whale meat stockpiles.
US Ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, reportedly told Reuters that he has agreed with the Japanese government on the suspension of the humpback whale hunting program.
Ms Sakuma said this would be a good way out for the Japanese government officials to call off their plan to catch humpbacks.
“They can use the US intervention as an excuse for changing their initial plan to hunt humpbacks, though they are very reluctant to listen to advice or suggestions by NGO peoples or even the Australian government officials,” she said.
Mr Joji Morishita, the Japanese government’s Chief Fisheries Negotiator, said he was aware of the news report about US Ambassador’s comment.
“But, I cannot give you any comment on the issue (of hunting humpback whales),” he said.
Ms Sakuma said no Japanese official had ever formally stated that Japan would go ahead with hunting humpback whales.
Ms Sakuma said she welcomed the Australian government’s announcement this week to dispatch a customs vessel and aircraft to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic.
”It will be great if the Australians are able to take photos of scenes that Japanese whalers are actually hunting humpback whales in the sea," she said.
She said "quite a few" experts on international law maintained that hunting humpback whales was illegal.
Humpback whales are considered to be facing a high risk of extinction.
According to the latest “Red List” of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the extinction risk of humpback whales is defined as “Vulnerable (VU), and that for minke whale as “Lower Risk” or “Nearly Threatened.”
Japanese media earlier reported that the IUCN had a plan to downgrade the humpback’s VU to “Leased Concern (LC), but it did not happen.
Mr Morishita said,”The IUCN has no legal power to force its member nations adopt its own criteria.”
Ms Sakuma also expects the Australian team will be able to get hard proof to show the Japanese whaling fleet might be dumping some parts of whale they hade caught -- if the accusation was true.
“Because of the shortage in the number of crew on board the whaling fleet, it is possible that Japanese will have to throw some meat into the ocean,” she said. “They might throw up to 50% of the catch.”
She said that IWC bans dumping of processed whale meat into the sea, but it does not say anything about the case of fresh meat.
“It will be interesting if the Australians take photos of whale guts floating in the water,” she said.
“Because Japanese whalers have kept saying that they utilise every part of whale meat,” she said.
She said: ”Anyway, it will be unnecessary for Green Peace to remain in the Antarctic to monitor the Japanese fleet, if the Australians put their plans into practice."
Dec 21, 2007 6:22:33 GMT -5
Post by Flash on Dec 21, 2007 6:22:33 GMT -5
WHALE meat has been sold as dog food in Japan and there is a push now to encourage children to consume it to help reduce stockpiles.
As Japan’s whaling fleet makes its way to Antartica for this year’s cull, the Japanese government has been desperately trying to reduce its stockpile from last season by encouraging public schools, nursery schools, and the food industry to increase its whale meat consumption.
Serving whale meat for school lunch had almost been suspended after the International Whaling Commission imposed a ban on commercial whaling in 1986.
But the Japanese government has been desperately trying to reduce its stockpile by encouraging public schools, nursery schools, and food industry to rise whale meat consumption.
Backed by the government’s initiative, more Japanese schools have now started serving whale meat for children’s school lunch.
According to the national Sankei Shimbun, more than 100 primary and junior high schools in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka have recently started whale meat school lunch.
The Asahi Shimbun reported last year that some 3,500 school nationwide serve whale meat for children for lunch.
In Japan whale meat had also been sold as dog food – although the meat came from smaller-sized whales caught along the Japanese coast, not from the Antarctic Ocean voyages.
“Hakudai,” a company that processes whale meat and sell its products in Chikura, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, had – according to its own advertising, been selling whale meat as dog food until recently.
The company’s home-page still includes an ad saying they sell “whale meat jerky for your cute pets.”
But the company denies this has continued.
“We are not selling whale meat jerky,” said a shop assistant yesterday.
It is now the year-end parties’ season now for most of Japan’s workers who enjoy traditional dishes, including whale meat, accompanied by alcohol.
The “Taruichi,” one of half-a-dozen whale restaurants in Tokyo, has been packed with customers who love various whale dishes such as raw sashimi, fried tempura, or even whale ice-cream.
“We have all sorts of customers, young and old, men and women, particularly toward the year end,” said Mr Shunichi Arita, Taruichi’s manager.
“Eating whale meat is a part of food culture in Japan, which should not be disturbed by other countries’ people such as Australians,” he said.
Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said the stockpile of whale meat stood at 3,798 tonnes at the end of November, down from 4,214 tonnes in September.
It is expected to go down further towards year’s end when Japanese people usually consume more whale meat than in other seasons.
The relatively low level of the whale meat stockpile is the result of the Nisshim Maru whaling fleet being forced to suspend its scientific whaling program after it caught a fire in the Antarctic on February 15 this year.
The fleet returned to Japan, carrying 505 minke whales and three fin whales, instead of planned 850 plus-minus 10% minke whales and ten fin whales.
The Institute of Cetacean Research, a body that has been conducting scientific whaling on behalf of the government, in February 2003 opened “Yushin,” a whale meat shop and restaurant in downtown Asakusa in Tokyo.
At the request of the institute, a small shop called “Geishoku Labo” opened in May last year in Tokyo’s Roppogi district. “Geishoku” means eating whale meat.
Asian Lunch, company that runs street vendors in Tokyo’s central district, last month started whale mince curry for white colour workers.
In collaboration with Geishoku Labo, Asian Lunch has been serving 600 dishes of whale curry a day in 14 places in Tokyo.
“We hope to attract young women, as well as middle-aged workers to the taste of whale meat,” said Yuka Yamaguchi, vice-president of Asian Lunch.
“We don’t want to waste by-products of scientific whaling,” she said.
“But I don’t agree with using whale meat in our business if they catch whales for the purpose of selling its meats from the start,” she said.
Ms Junko Sakuma, an independent whale analyst, had some doubt Japanese consumers wanted to eat humpback whale meat.
“You know that they have stopped eating humpback whale meat 43 years ago,” she said.
“Generally speaking, Japanese consumers do not jump on new types of whale meat, as it has happened in the case of Bryde’s whale or sei whale in the past.”
The Japanese whaling fleet led by the 6,030-tonne Nisshin Maru is about to start hunting whales – maximum 935 minke whales, 50 humpback whales and 50 fin whales in the Antarctic Ocean.
It is reported that the Institute of Cetacean Research has spent 14 billion yen (A$ 1,428 million) since 1987 on scientific whaling.
Scientific whaling also is funded by taxpayers’ money – one billion yen each year.
The fleet is expected to return to Japan sometime next April, bringing over 5,500 tonne whale mea