Japan’s whaling fleet: effectively nationalised and running on empty

Press release - December 20, 2012
Tokyo, December 20, 2012 – Greenpeace and 18 Japanese NGOs called on the Japanese government to end its unprofitable whaling operations and refocus on domestic priorities as the factory ship of the country's so-called ‘scientific’ whaling fleet departed for the Antarctic from Innoshima port on Thursday.

Last year more than 1.8 billon yen was diverted from the recovery fund set up after the tragic March 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami and used to pay the debts of the whaling industry instead of being used for disaster relief efforts.

A new Greenpeace International report released today, ’Scientific’ Whaling: A Sea Change, details the shameful increased financial support given to the loss-making whaling operations, money that could have been better spent helping the communities devastated by the 2011 disaster.

“Demand has plunged to record lows and the industry has two years worth of frozen whale meat in storage that it is already struggling to sell,” said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. “The whalers cannot catch their way out of debt because of the weak market and have been reducing the scale of the hunt for the past few years to stop the stockpiles from getting any bigger.” (1)

The Greenpeace briefing sheds light on a financial arrangement through which a body under the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) will subsidise up to 90% of the whaling fleet’s deficit for the next three years.

The so-called Profitable Fisheries Support Project is meant to assist struggling fishing communities, but political deal-making has helped secure a deal for these funds to maintain Japan’s Antarctic whaling.

“Sales of whale meat do not even cover a fraction of crew wages, let alone the fuel and other costs of running the programme,” said Sato. “The whaling industry is simply dead in the water and only limps on due to it being effectively nationalised and bailed out with misappropriated taxpayer money.”

Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) has also been granted a government loan to refurbish the whaling fleet’s factory processing ship Nisshin Maru to keep her afloat for another 10 years despite the clear decline for industry support at home and abroad.

“Earlier this month the government of South Korea cancelled its plans to begin a whaling programme similar to Japan’s – proving once again that commercial whaling is finished,” added Sato. “The loans being given to the industry will never be paid back. It is a black hole for taxpayer money. The Japanese government must remove the blinders, save face and begin repairing its international reputation by ending these whaling charades once and for all.”

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace. Greenpeace is opposed to commercial whaling in all of the world’s oceans.

CONTACT:
Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan International Executive Director (in Tokyo) +81 80 3694 2843 (mobile) or
John Frizell, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner (in the UK) +44 7801 212 999 (mobile) or
Steve Smith, Greenpeace International communications (in Amsterdam) +31 643 787 359 (mobile) or

NOTES:
1) Greenpeace Report: “Scientific” whaling – a sea change: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/whalingfleet2012

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