This is more about the whale meat scandal from Brian up at Greenpeace International in Amsterdam...
Finally, we can tell the story some of us have been sitting on for months now: the whale meat embezzlement we uncovered in Japan, in which stolen cuts of prime whale bacon are smuggled away from the "scientific research" vessels and sold for oodles of yen -- one of our informers heard a crew member claim he built a house on his illegal proceeds.
We hit the front page of Japan's biggest newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, this morning -- a first for Greenpeace in Japan, where whale stories have always been hard to sell. But with the Japanese government in seeming constant free fall with corruption scandals being unearthed all the time, whale meat embezzlement -- especially since it involves taxpayers' money -- is a monster story.
05/15/2008 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Greenpeace Japan said Thursday it will seek a criminal investigation against 12 crew members of a research whaling ship over allegations they embezzled a ton of meat from whales caught in the Antarctic Ocean.
The group says the crew members aboard the research vessel Nisshin Maru sent cardboard boxes believed to have contained whale meat to their homes.
At a news conference Thursday in Tokyo, Greenpeace Japan members displayed whale meat they said had been intercepted on route to the home of a crew member. The box contained 23.5 kilograms of coveted whale meat used in bacon.
The estimated value of the meat is between 110,000 yen and 350,000 yen ($1,048 and $3,334), according to Greenpeace Japan.
This goes to the heart of the legality of the whaling programme. The ICR (Institute for Cetacean Research, which runs the scientific whaling programme) is constantly claiming that they are *compelled* to sell the "byproduct of their scientific research" by the International Treaty on the Conservation of Whales -- they don't really *want* to sell it, no no no it's not a commercial activity, there's a *law* see? Well guys, you made your bed, now sleep in it. If it's the law, then turning a blind eye to your own crew members skimming the best cuts off the top and distributing them to cronies and restaurants for kudos and profit is, literally, a criminal offense.
On top of that, the commercial sales are supposed to be "deferring the cost of the research programme" which costs the Japanese taxpayer US$ 4.7 million every year. So you can imagine there's some unhappy Japanese taxpayers reading the paper this morning. And watching the news as well -- every Japanese TV station was at our press conference a few hours ago, and the story has run already four or five times, even before prime news time.
So what do the whalers have to say about this? When we asked before the revelations, on the 8th of May, this is what the Japanese Fisheries Agency, the government agency responsible for whaling said:
8 May 2008 11:58 Investigator: After the price (of the whale meat) will be decided on in June, will all whale meat be sold at this price?
Mr. Naruko: Yes, United price will be set according to each part of the meat. Meat will go to the wholesalers with this price.
Investigator: Which means there will be no sales before June?
Mr. Naruko: Yes, without a price, there’s no way to sell.
Investigator: I heard from somewhere that the sailors used to bring back some whale meat as private souvenirs during the industrial whaling period. This does not happen these days under the research whaling, right?
Mr. Naruko: Of course not. Since the distribution (of whale meat) is very limited.
Investigator: Since the whale meat is considered as “official,” right?
Mr. Naruko: Yes.
Kyodo Senpaku, the company that runs the whaling ships, today also claimed it doesn't happen. Then changed their mind and said there was perhaps "some suspicion."
And the ICR, which runs the scientific programme, said souvenirs, just souvenirs:
"It has been a longstanding practice since we were whaling as a commercial activity," he said. "We treat it as comparable to making whale meat a source of our meals (during the voyage). It should not be a problem."
Another ICR official said each of about 250 crew members of a research whaling fleet receives several kilograms of whale meat for free as a token.
However, Greenpeace Japan noted that if the 47 boxes sent from the Nisshin Maru contained whale meat, the total would have exceeded 1 ton.
In fact, our informers mentioned the souvenirs, and said the smuggled whale bacon was on top of that -- kilograms of stuff they sneak into their cabins, salt and put in cardboard. We even talked to a woman who sells the special salt in the port town where the whales depart from: she says she can't keep enough of it in stock when the whaling crew are making their preparations to leave -- they buy her out, and the town runs out of cardboard. The salt is only for the whale bacon, the finest cuts, and doesn't get used for the souvenir meat.
One crew member sent boxes weighing 200 to 300 kilograms, according to the crew member.
Another former crew member said he sent 20 kg of whale meat to his home and ate it with his family. (IHT/Asahi: May 15,2008)
Now, if that lucky crew member who took home 200-300 kilos sold it at premium prices, he made a tidy profit of 25,000 - 38,000 USD off of a non-commercial, scientific whale hunt expedition. Who says crime --er, I mean science -- doesn't pay?
Two Diet members have now put official questions in to the Japanese Parliament and there will be an open seminar on Monday with the Diet members, media, and embassy officials, to look into the scandal further.
The Japanese people have been ripped off and lied to for too long. It's time for the politicians to step in and kill the permits for killing whales. Write this letter. Send it to your friends. Time to say game over. The jig's up. Everybody out of the pool. You're nicked, mate.