As the ailing and fraudulent ‘scientific’ Japanese whaling fleet conducts a greatly reduced hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) has been forced to apologise for the misconduct of five officials who accepted gifts of whale meat totalling approximately US$3,000. Two other key officials - including the FAJ’s second in command and prominent IWC negotiator, Jun Yamashita – were handed warnings, as they were ultimately responsible for the actions of their staff.
The FAJ’s apology and subsequent quiet admission(2) of official impropriety is the first time the Japanese authorities have acknowledged the corruption exposed in 2008 by Greenpeace’s Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, also known as the Tokyo Two.
“Toru Suzuki and I exposed a broad-scale whale meat embezzlement scandal inside Japan’s whaling industry in 2008, and we spent over two years in court defending ourselves for speaking out,” said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. “The FAJ’s admission that high-level officials such as Yamashita were responsible for its officers accepting expensive whale meat gifts is yet more proof of this systemic and deep-rooted corruption.”
Sato and Suzuki are currently appealing a one year suspended sentence, which was handed to them in September 2010 after they were found guilty of ‘theft’ and ‘trespass’ for intercepting a box of embezzled whale meat and using it to expose corruption in the whaling industry.(3)
The box of embezzled meat Sato and Suzuki intercepted was worth $550 according to prosecutors – far less than what industry officials have now admitted to taking, and according to evidence and witness testimony from the Tokyo Two trial, what has been admitted is merely the tip of the iceberg.
In the wake of the FAJ apology, Kazuo Yamamura, head of the Japan Whaling Association (JWA) and CEO of Kyodo Senpaku, admitted during another press conference that whale meat sales dropped 30 per cent in the first half of 2010, forcing the JWA - the largest promoter of whale meat in Japan - to downscale its activities.(4)
“With a smaller fleet(5) in the Southern Ocean hunting a reduced target of whales, a growing 5,300 tonne stockpile of meat in frozen storage,(6) and now an official admission that the corruption we exposed exists, it is clear that the whaling industry’s days are numbered,” said Sato. “As the embezzlement of public money is now undeniable, the official investigation into the scandal we exposed must be reopened.”
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.
1) The Tokyo Prosecutors' Office opened an investigation into embezzlement based on evidence presented by Greenpeace Japan in May 2008; the investigation was dropped on 20 June 2008, and two Greenpeace activists arrested. For more information, see (3) below.
2) A press release was sent to select Tokyo journalists, but not otherwise published or uploaded to its website. A copy is available from Greenpeace Japan.
3) In January 2008, Greenpeace began an investigation into insider allegations that organised whale meat embezzlement was being conducted by crew inside Japan's so-called ’scientific‘ whaling programme, which is funded by Japanese taxpayers. The informer was previously involved in the whaling programme, and as a result of his information, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki began an investigation, eventually discovering firm proof that cardboard boxes containing whale meat were being secretly shipped to the homes of whaling fleet crew - and then sold for personal profit. Junichi delivered a box of this whale meat to the Tokyo Prosecutors' Office in May 2008, and filed a report of embezzlement. However, the embezzlement investigation was dropped on 20 June - the same day that both men were arrested and then held for 26 days, 23 of which were without charge. They were convicted of theft and trespass on September 6, 2010, and sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years. Unexpectedly, on December 22, 2010, the Fisheries Agency of Japan announced that it was reprimanding five of its officials, and giving formal warnings to two senior officials, for accepting whale meat gifts from the industry – further confirming Sato and Suzuki’s accusations of broad-scale corruption. The Tokyo Two, as Sato and Suzuki are known, are currently appealing their conviction, which is due to be heard in the Sendai High Court on May 24, 2011.
4) A report from fisheries newspaper Minato Shinbun on Monday, January 24, 2011 discussed a press conference held on January 20 by Kyodo Senpaku, the Japan Whaling Association, and the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), where the three bodies outlined the many serious problems facing the whaling industry. Kazuo Murayama, the CEO of Kyodo Senpaku and the head of the Japan Whaling Association said "annual sales have decreased 30% during the first half of  (fiscal year)" and mentioned that the JWA’s activities may be decreased as a result. The ICR announced that it has reduced the number of its executive directors to one. Yoshihiro Fujise, who was appointed as the first "proper" (he is a scientist promoted from within the ICR, not a retired FAJ executive) Executive Director of ICR since Nov 30 2010, also explained that the financial model of covering the research costs by selling whale meat as a “byproduct” of the research no longer worked.
5) Lloyd’s Seaweb lists the status of the Hiyo Maru, the ship used to refuel the fleet and offload whale meat at sea, as “broken up” as of 2 September 2010. A document given to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee (SC/62/O17) lists the Yushin-Maru 3 as being dedicated to the sightings survey. Another document (SC/62/O3) reported that in the 2009-10 season, the Yushin-Maru 3 was used only for sightings and did not hunt. The 2009-10 season was the first in which only two catchers were used since the programme began in 1987.
6) Whale meat storage figures:
2009 & earlier: http://www.maff.go.jp/j/tokei/kouhyou/suisan_ryutu/reizou_ryutu/index.html#m