Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XI No. 1 - January 2002
Japanese Whaling and the IWC
By Kate O'Connell, CSI Board
In early November, a fleet of five Japanese whaling vessels set out for Antarctic waters, with the goal of killing some 400 minke whales for supposed "scientific research" purposes. The hunt, conducted within the waters of the International Whaling Commission's Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, has come under strong condemnation by the international community. In addition to the fact that the whale hunt yields little information of any use for the conservation and management of whales, the hunt is also quite clearly a commercial exercise, as the meat is sold in markets throughout Japan.
This year, at the meeting of the IWC's Scientific Committee, it was noted that the committee, which had analyzed population figures for the Southern Hemisphere minkes that are the target of the Japanese hunt, "cannot rule out a drastic decline of up to 50%" of that minke population. Despite this, the Japanese continue to defy IWC management measures, and to hunt whales.
However, the Japanese whaling fleet this season ran into some strong opposition. The Greenpeace vessel, the M/V Arctic Sunrise, also sailed to the Southern Ocean, and engaged in an effort to both document the Japanese hunt and to keep the whalers from harpooning the tiny minke whales.
In addition, the Japanese fleet ran into trouble when it was discovered that one of their five whaling vessels was in Prydz Bay, an area in Antarctica claimed by the Australian government as part of its jurisdiction. The Japanese boat was told by the Australian government to leave, and was escorted out of the area by the government boat the Aurora Australis.
The fact that the Japanese whaling boat was found in Australian waters underscores a key concern raised by conservationists over the years: that whaling, especially whaling in remote locations such as the Antarctic or on the high seas, is impossible to control. The IWC lacks both a monitoring and an enforcement scheme, and as such, beyond its inherent cruelty, whaling has been an activity rife with mismanagement and lack of regulation. The IWC is currently looking at developing a potential plan for the regulation of whaling (the Revised Management Scheme), yet the whalers continue to show a lack of good faith in complying with the management measures currently set by the IWC. Whaling within a designated sanctuary is not acceptable.
A meeting on the Revised Management Scheme is to be held in New Zealand later this month, following on from a preliminary meeting on the subject held in Cambridge, in the UK in October. Interestingly, the October meeting on the RMS resulted in some fireworks between the Japanese and New Zealand delegations. Despite clear agreement by those countries participating in the RMS discussions that the meetings were to be confidential, the Japanese delegate Joji Morishita spoke to the press immediately following the Cambridge session to say that the discussions would lead to the lifting of the moratorium and the resumption of commercial whaling by the time of the IWC meeting, to be held in Shimonoseki, Japan in late May, 2002. Such statements continue to underscore the Japanese government's bad faith. Not only did they fail to abide by the rules of debate set for the RMS meeting, they also failed to accurately portray the discussions. As Commissioner Jim McClay of New Zealand rebutted in the press, the moratorium and the lifting of the ban on commercial whaling has at no time been on the agenda of the debate of the Commission, and, as several countries have insisted, the moratorium will remain in effect. Japan continues to mislead both the press and public regarding the whaling debate.
The US government has made its regrets known to the Japanese government, and in a statement issued by Richard Boucher, a spokesperson for the US State Department, the Bush Administration indicated its concern over the fact that the Japanese research whaling has continued.
CSI asks readers of Whales Alive! to contact both President Bush and Secretary Powell at the State Department to thank them for their concern for the whales, and ask them to take all appropriate action against the Japanese hunt.
President George W. Bush
Secretary of State Colin Powell