Indybay Regions North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area California United States International Americas Haiti Iraq Palestine Afghanistan
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature

Commercial Whaling given Unofficial nod by US-Japan deal

by Takver - Sydney Indymedia
A deal made by U.S. Whaling Commissioner and retiring head of the US Fisheries Agency, Bill (William) Hogarth with Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura seems to endorse a return to commercial whaling by Japan. While publicly the US administration adopts an anti-whaling stance, its behind the scenes diplomacy in the International Whaling Commission and with Japan is at odds with its public stance.

Most recently Bill Hogarth brokered the deal whereby Japan would refrain from hunting humpback whales for the next year or two on the condition that the International Whaling Commission is reformed or "normalised" - returned to its 1946 purpose of management of whale stocks for commercial exploitation. "This move can be seen as a bold step forward in breaking the impasse over whaling that has burdened the IWC for many years." said Hogarth in a NOAA press release.

Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura revealed at a press conference on December 21 the extent of the US administration hypocrisy on the whaling issue:

"I had received a request from the Chair of the International Whaling Commission, Mr. William Hogarth, who indicated his opinion to me that the IWC is currently not functioning effectively and that he is seeking to remedy this situation, for which he asks for the cooperation of Japan, currently the Vice-Chair of the IWC. Mr. Hogarth requested that Japan reviewed its plan to catch humpback whales while such a reform is going on."

Bill Hogarth steps down as the director of NOAA’s Fisheries Service, part of the US Commerce Department, on December 28, 2007 after seven years in this post, but remains active as the U.S. commissioner to the International Whaling Commission and is presently serving as the chairperson of the International Whaling Commission. The NOAA Fisheries Service is charged with researching and protecting whale species in U.S. waters. The vice chair of the IWC is currently with Japan.

A global moratorium on commercial whaling has existed since 1986 under the auspices of the IWC, but Japan runs a "scientific whaling program" conducted within a loophole of the commission's rules, allowing it to slaughter hundreds of whales each year and sell the meat for consumption to pay the costs of the research. In 2006 the Japanese Whaling Fleet was restructured to transfer it from private ownership (susceptible to consumer led boycotts) to Government control through the Japanese Government funded Institute for Cetecean Research.

First news of the deal broke on December 18 with reports that the American ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, had negotiated an informal agreement for Japan to suspend its hunt of humpback whales until the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in June 2008. These reports of the deal were initially denied by Japanese Government bureaucrats.

In October 2007 the Institute for Cetecean Research announced quotas for the slaughter of 935 Minke whales, 50 of the endangered Fin whales, and 50 endangered Humpback whales under its supposed scientific research program - JARPAII. Some commentators believe humpback whales, the beloved animals of many coastal whale watching ventures, were never seriously to be hunted this season but were part of an ambit claim to be held to ransom as a bargaining chip for increasing the whale slaughter and effectively adding Fin whales to this slaughter.

Estimates of Fin whale numbers are very sketchy, but according to research in 2001 the Southern ocean populations "are currently estimated to be no more than 5,000 individuals and probably only 2-3000. As with the blue whale, it is not certain that the fin whale has been saved from extinction by wanton overhunting."

Dr Tim Stephens from the University of Sydney believes Japan would have clearly been in breach of the CITES treaty for hunting humpback whales. Stephens said on his blog "It may well be that Japan has been using the proposed humpback hunt as a negotiating tactic to retain its much larger minke hunt."

According to a report on ABC radio current affairs program PM there is an assertion by a Japanese journalist and activist Junko Sakuma that Japan never had the intention or capability of killing humpbacks. She offered the simple mathematics of the refrigeration capacity of Japan's whaling fleet: "The maximum refrigerated capacity of the Nisshin Maru fleet is 2,000 tonnes. If they catch 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales, they would produce an extra 2,000 tonnes of whale meat, and it’s beyond the capability of the fleet."

US Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez in the NOAA press release said "We applaud Japan's decision as an act of goodwill toward the International Whaling Commission. Japan has listened intently to the concerns surrounding their hunt and the special significance whales have in many cultures. Japan has shown that it is serious about working to preserve the IWC."

Pull the other leg, Carlos!

"I commend Bill for his determined leadership on this issue and his years of service on the International Whaling Commission. His efforts, along with those of the Japanese vice-chairman, will reduce tensions among commission members and shape how negotiations within the IWC are conducted in the future." said Gutierrez. Officially the USA opposes Japan's scientific whaling, but the reality is far from the public statements.

The USA were notably absent from the formal diplomatic protest - called a demarche - against Japan's thinly disguised commercial whaling program operating under the scientific research loophole of the IWC. The protest was delivered by Australia's ambassador to the Japanese Foreign Ministry and Fisheries Agency on the 21st December 2007. The countries who joined Australia's lead in voicing opposition to Japan's whaling program were: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The United Kingdom and Uruguay. The European Commission also participated in the protest.

"The Australian Government strongly believes that there is no credible justification for the hunting of any whales and will vigorously pursue its efforts, announced earlier this week, to see an end to whaling by Japan." said Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in a press release. The move to exclude the humpbacks from the hunt was welcomed but "we will continue to urge Japan to bring an end to its lethal so-called 'scientific whaling' program," said Mr Smith.

Hogarth said on his official blog in June/July 2006:

"The United States will be diligent in efforts to maintain the moratorium. We know that commercial whaling in our recent past led to the endangerment of valuable whale species, many of which are still struggling to recover. Though some whale species are not threatened, we're determined not to repeat mistakes of the past. As the newly elected chairman of the IWC, I will continue to represent America's values, using diplomacy and education to urge member nations not to overturn this important international protection for whales. ..... Some countries continue whaling despite the moratorium – either they have a reservation against the commercial whaling moratorium or they do it under the guise of scientific research. These are issues we will continue to work through..... "

This is just more of the same hype by the US Administration following the US Government Refusal to Act against Japan on Whaling in the 2006/2007 whaling season.

Whaling Protests by Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a lone New Zealand yachtsman continue despite the Reprieval for Humpbacks.


Add Your Comments
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
Takver - Sydney Indymedia
Tue, Jan 1, 2008 8:47PM
We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!


$140.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.


Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network