A traditional sake barrel-breaking ceremony marked the launch of
the new Center, which is located in the city where the trial of
two Greenpeace activists who exposed corruption in the Japanese
whaling industry will take place a few months from now.
But even as we're taking our anti-whaling campaign to the next
level by targeting the source of demand for whale meat, holdovers
from the Bush administration are already attempting to undermine
President Obama's forward-thinking foreign policy on whaling.
A change in perspective
The head of the local fisherman's union and one of Aomori's most
influential local farmers spoke at our opening ceremony, which was
heavily attended by local and national media. Both men spoke of
Greenpeace as being misunderstood in Japan but expressed hope that
the people of Aomori would take the time to listen and understand
the true nature of the organization.
The fisherman, Hirosumi Hamata, noted that we share a common
goal in creating sustainable fisheries. He said he had been wary of
Greenpeace until he met Wakao, one of our campaigners in Tokyo. Now
Hamata says he is keen to see what we have to say and what our Japanese
office has planned.
The Aomori Communication Center will be a hub for information
and discussion on Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale
Sanctuary. According to
opinion polls, a majority of the Japanese people don´t support
whaling in the Southern Ocean, and nearly 87 percent are unaware
that their taxes subsidize the program.
Many Japanese imagine that modern whaling involves small boats
hunting individual whales along Japan's coastline. Images of the
massive factory vessel, which sails each year to the Antarctic
leading a fleet of industrial whaling ships, often come as a shock.
Japanese media had paid relatively little attention to the whaling
issue until Greenpeace broke the news of
the whale meat scandal.
Bush Administration appointees try to strike last-minute
The election of Barack Obama was a welcome development for our
anti-whaling campaign, as the new American president has said he's
committed to ending Japan's whaling program. But U.S. delegates on
the International Whaling Commission (IWC) left over from the Bush
Administration are attempting to strike a deal that would be a
setback in the campaign to save the whales.
news reports out of Hawaii, Bush appointees on IWC - Doug
DeMaster and commission chairman William Hogarth - participated in
closed-door talks with Japanese officials to negotiate a deal that
would allow increased whaling off the coast of Japan in return for
marginal limits on Japan's illegal commercial whaling program in
the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The trade-off will not benefit
whale conservation and could actually put additional endangered
populations at risk.
The deal would run counter to President Obama's commitment to
end Japanese whaling. In December of 2007, then-Senator Obama told
Greenpeace that "As president, I will ensure that the U.S.
provides leadership in enforcing international wildlife protection
agreements, including strengthening the international moratorium on
commercial whaling. Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling
"President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have the
opportunity to show the world that they're in charge and that the
United States is firmly committed to marine conservation by
appointing new commissioners to the IWC who will faithfully
implement President Obama's foreign policies," said Greenpeace
Senior Oceans Campaigner Phil Kline.
While it is vitally important that we counter this new threat at
the IWC, our larger purpose remains: to end whaling once and for
all. We have re-doubled efforts in Japan, to reduce demand for
whale meat and to promote sustainable fishing practices in
The door is open
The Greenpeace Communications Center in Aomori is open to the
public and is the perfect opportunity for us to reach out to the
whole community with our message of healthy oceans and the
importance of marine reserves. We will host a series of public
events in the coming months including a conference on sustainable
We're out to challenge misinformation about Greenpeace, and
remind the people of Japan of campaigns we've run against
nuclear waste dumping in Japanese waters,
nuclear energy and the
genetic contamination of food, among other global
sustainability issues that have a special relevance to Aomori.
Free the Tokyo Two
With two of our activists facing the possibility of prison for
their role in defending the whales, we also want to bring to the
people of Aomori an understanding of a basic Greenpeace premise:
non-violent direct action.
Peaceful, effective action is at the heart and soul of what Greenpeace
does, and we'll be doing our best to foster greater
understanding of why we take action against environmental crimes,
why we bear witness to ecological injustice, and why we risk
imprisonment in order to spark the discussions that change a
When Greenpeace first brought the world's attention to the
whaling issue, the Soviet Union, Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Spain
were all whaling nations. Together with other environmental groups,
we stopped all of them, with actions on the high seas and efforts
at scientific and political forums. We directed public pressure
towards a moratorium on commercial whaling that was established in
1982. Nonetheless, Iceland, Norway, and Japan still hunt whales, in
defiance of world opinion.
Whaling: Who needs it?
Despite the secretive negotiations taking place between Bush's
appointees and the Japanese government, the whaling programs of all
three nations - Iceland, Norway, and Japan - are on their last
legs. Demand for whale meat continues to plummet, surplus stocks
continue to increase, and more and more people in the business and
political communities are asking why whalers continue to enjoy
subsidies for research nobody needs to obtain whale meat nobody
In December, we brought the last captain of an Australian
whaling vessel to Tokyo to talk about how his country, his town,
and he himself made the transition away from whaling. "There is
life after whaling," he said.
That's one of the visions we want to promote in Aomori and at
the IWC -- a recognition that whaling's days are numbered as we
look to a future of marine reserves and other measures to protect
our Oceans and our Earth.
Stop Bush Admin appointees from allowing Japan to kill more whales