On December 22, 2010 - the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) acknowledged and publicly apologised for embezzlement within the whaling industry. An official from the powerful agency gave a bow of apology on national television and explained that five officers were being punished for accepting around 272,000 Yen (approximately R21,000) worth of whale meat ‘gifts’.
This is hard evidence that the whale meat embezzlement scandal which Toru and I exposed back in 2008*, did in fact exist, and that the corruption stretched from the factory ship floor right up into the government agencies overseeing the whaling programme. Straight from the horse’s mouth, and on national television no less.
The Tokyo Two trial, the FAJ apologies and demotions, and a surge in media coverage questioning the corrupt whaling programme have all impacted Japanese public opinion (especially considering the utter lack of interest in eating whale meat).
People are beginning to see that whaling serves no purpose and does not benefit Japan. For my father’s generation, whale meat was everywhere: in schools, supermarkets, and izakayas (Japanese style pubs). These days, signs of the whaling industry are hard to find and the stockpile of frozen meat is at an all-time high, despite reduced catches and serious - but failed- marketing attempts to get rid of the stockpile.
Stockpile of Whale Meat in Japan
As fewer and fewer people are buying whale meat, so increasing amounts of whale meat are stockpiled. Sales were down 30% in the first half of 2010 alone.
Last week, Kazuo Yamamura, the CEO of whaling fleet operator Kyodo Senpaku and head of the Japan Whaling Association (JWA), also admitted that whale meat sales dropped 30% in the first half of the 2010 fiscal year, forcing the JWA - the largest promoter of whale meat in Japan - to downscale its activities. The situation is clear: the industry is slipping faster and faster down the spiral. Our campaign to hit whale meat sales in Japan is surely working.
The fleet is ailing, each year they voluntarily catch less whales that they cannot sell or afford to keep storing. The stockpiled meat and the lack of revenue means the ships cannot be maintained or replaced without even more substantial injections of public money. The government should not waste any more money on this programme given that these recent admissions are clearly just the tip of the iceberg.
With all of these different threads of change coming together, I am confident that what we are seeing is the last chapter of Japan’s whaling program. If our appeal is successful and Toru's and my conviction is overturned by the High Court on May 24, then we will undoubtedly be even closer to closing the book.
Thank you for your continuing support!
*Back in 2008 Toru and I intercepted a box of embezzled whale meat, and used it to expose the embezzlement scandal the FAJ has now admitted to. We were tried on allegations of ‘theft’ and ‘trespass’ and handed a one year sentence, suspended for three, in 2010. We don't know what exact punishment the officials have been handed, but we know that they have not been put on trial or given jail time. The meat they admitted accepting was worth roughly six times what Toru and I were accused of taking.