A Special Report has appeared in the Japanese buisiness magazine Shukan Toyo Keizai and we thought we'd share some of the translated version here. The folks at Greenpeace Japan have been very pleased that there is a discussion going on in the Japanese media lately since it's been such a long time coming.

"In the past few years, Japan has rapidly expanded its research whaling and has been trying to win support with numbers at international meetings. (...) Tensions in the Antarctic Ocean over Japan’s research whaling have reached an unprecedented high."

The article boldly sates:

"For companies, whale-related businesses are an “operational risk”. "(...)

and goes on to conclude:

"Being one of the few issues on which Japan has made a stand against the United States and European countries, the stance of whaling hardliners could also be a vent for narrow-minded nationalism. In the end, that could easily be detrimental to national interests. Perhaps the Japanese people need to take this opportunity to re-examine the whaling issue for themselves."

Here's some more extracts from the article:

Bargaining between nations over research whaling have in fact suddenly grown increasingly stormy since last autumn. The kindling point was the change of government in Australia. One of the main electoral platforms of the Labor Government, which won power in general elections held in November last year, is “anti-whaling”. On December 19, both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Environment Minister held press conferences to announce plans to send customs vessels to monitor for illegal activities by the Japanese research whalers.

Amidst all this, one issue that arose as a focal point was the “humpback whale” issue. Japan had formulated a plan to capture 50 of the large humpback whales annually, beginning this year. However, the humpback whales, which are often the subject of whale-watching tours, have a special place in the hearts of Australians, and consequentially the anti-whaling campaign carried out in Australia gain unprecedented

momentum.

Virtually in tandem, the United States began to exert pressure. Japan regards the IWC as “dysfunctional” because it does not carry out scientific discussions, and is calling for normalization of the organization. Here the United States put forward a proposal on December 11, 2007: as President of the organization, The United States would stress to member nations the need for normalization, in exchange for which it asked that Japan postpone its humpback whale hunt. The Japanese Government discussed the issue at “very high levels” (Foreign Ministry Fishery Office), eventually deciding to accept the United States’ proposal. In a rare move for this kind of issue, it was the Chief Cabinet Secretary who announced that Japan would postpone the humpback whale hunt on December 21.

Japan made this concession in the hope that it would calm Australia’s anti-whaling fervor. However, the Australian Government continued to openly call the Japanese research whaling “meaningless” and “savage”, refusing to slacken their anti-whaling diplomatic stance. Japan looked at this coldly, suggesting that Australia was “having trouble lowering the fist they had raised”, and this and the other whaling issues that

have sprung up suddenly remain at a standstill as “matters of concern” for the Japan-Australia relationship.

Featuring in this growing international attention to Japan’s research whaling activities is that fact that the scale of the whaling has been expanding year on year. To begin with, what exactly is “research whaling”? The IWC issued a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982 in response to calls for environmental protection activities and curbing of resource loss through over-fishing. Japan then began “research whaling” at the end of 1987. Under the International Whaling Agreement, IWC member countries may on their own volition hunt whales for the purpose of studying resource quantities and the eco-system. The Fisheries Agency Whaling Section emphasizes the legality of Japan’s whaling activities, saying that “The approval of the IWC is not required, so other countries have no right to criticize us”. Anti-whaling criticism that “research can be conducted without killing the whales” is deeply rooted, but Japan refuses to back down, saying that “killing of whales for research is necessary” for examining age

and stomach content”.

Despite the name “research whaling”, the whales are hunted in the same way as in the days of commercial whaling, with a central mother ship leading a fleeting of whaling vessels, and the expense is enormous. To meet these expenses, immediately after they have been studied the whale carcasses are cut up into approximately 5kg blocks and frozen, then sold when the ships return to Japan as “by-products”. The money acquired from these sales is used to fund the research whaling. A little over 50% of the whale meat is sold on the market, just under 40% is sold to processing companies, and the remaining 10% is sold to school catering and related companies. The use of whaling by-products is required under the International Whaling Agreement, but anti-whaling

activists are strongly opposed, calling it “commercial whaling in disguise”.

Amidst all this opposition, Japan has expanded the scale of its research whaling operations. The original quota was a mere 300 minke whales from the Antarctic Ocean. The small-sized minke whales had gone virtually untouched in the age of over-hunting, and so there remained a plentiful supply and their commercial whaling was never banned. In addition to the research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean, which was initially planned to continue for 18 years, Japan began research whaling in the North-West Pacific Ocean in 1994, then from 2000 included large species of whales such as Bryde's whales, sei whales, and sperm whales. Moreover, the Antarctic Ocean research whaling entered its second six-year period from the 2005/2006 season; the quota for minke whales more than doubled to a maximum of 935 and fin whales and humpback whales

were also targeted.

The organisation in charge of Japan’s research whaling is the Fisheries Agency affiliated Institute of Cetacean Research. The expenses budgeted for the institute for the period ending September 2007 was some 7.3 billion yen; income from the sale of whaling by-products amounted to 6.8 billion yen (the difference was made by government subsidies), and amount representing more than 5,000 tons of whale meat.(...)

Incidentally, consumption of whale meat does not appear to be keeping pace with this increase in whaling by-products.(...)

Following Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, whale meat was valued as an inexpensive source of animal protein in a time when food was scarce, and has been a prominent meat for the Japanese dinner table. This, however, only continued up until the 1960s. With import liberalization playing a role, Japanese stomachs are now filled with domestic livestock meats. The by-products of research whaling are put onto the market with official prices calculated from whaling expenses. Supermarket prices for whale meat are no different from those of Japanese beef, and correspondingly demand is not particularly high. (...)

Despite the move away from whaling under their feet, the Japanese Government has not only expanded its research whaling but also attempted to force IWC support of these activities through numbers. West African countries which have deep Official Development Assistance ties with Japan are joining the IWC one after another in support of whaling. The pro-whaling and anti-whaling sides now have almost equal numbers. At the IWC General Assembly the year before last, the “St Kitts and Nevis Declaration” proposed by the pro-whaling side was passed with one vote, with the Japanese delegation overjoyed at their first victory in the 24 years since the adoption of the commercial whaling moratorium. Directly after this, however, the United Kingdom began anti-whaling diplomacy. Five anti-whaling countries in Europe and elsewhere then joined the IWC, once again skewing the balance in favor of the anti-whaling side.

The current chair of the IWC is regarded as being deeply understanding of the Japanese position, and Japan is sure to be appointed the next vice-chair of the organization. The next few years could be called a golden opportunity for Japan in terms of pro-whaling diplomacy.

However, considering the current status of the IWC, the general consensus is that achieving the three-quarters majority vote in an IWC General Assembly required for recommencement of commercial whaling to be approved would be virtually impossible. Why then, in the face of this, is Japan so persistent in promoting whaling, which is an economic non-issue? The Japanese government’s answer is that “it is the issue of the principle of trying to use organic resources sustainably. If we give an inch on the whaling issue, we will also have to back down on the tuna issue (whose numbers are already said to be decreasing). That’s another reason why the research is necessary.”