That's the title of an article in today's New York Times. From the article:

Historically, fishermen in coastal towns, like Taiji in southwestern Japan, hunted whales in nearby waters. But things changed after the Commodore Perry’s so-called Black Ships forced an isolationist Japan to open up in the 1850s. Back then, the United States used whale oil lamps, and part of Perry’s mission to Japan was to secure the rights of American whalers in the Pacific.

As whaling became knotted with Japan's traumatic opening to the world and its subsequent drive to modernize, the Japanese adopted American and Norwegian whaling vessels and techniques. Some coastal towns were transformed into whaling stations, including Ayukawa, when the Toyo Whaling Company started operating here in 1906.

More Japanese, in turn, began eating whale, especially in western Japan. But it was after World War II, when a devastated Japan had few resources, that the American occupation authorities urged that whale meat be offered in classroom lunches nationwide as a cheap source of protein. For the first time, under America's influence, whale meat became part of Japanese everyday life.

This is an aspect of the whaling situation in Japan that most people don't know about. Really good to see it covered.

I could pick fault with a few things in the article. Describing the environmental movement, at this point, as "United States-led" will sound ridiculous to anyone in the enviro movement outside the US. Case in point, Greenpeace International is based in the Netherlands, has offices in dozens of countries and the current whales campaign push is being run from Argentina (the website you're reading this on was conceived of and developed by them).

The question they forgot to ask

As good as the article was, I think the reporter missed something very significant during this interview...

To establish this point, Japan sends whalers all the way to the Antarctic’s international waters, said Tetsu Sato, a professor of environmental science at Nagano University. In a world of diminishing marine resources, establishing this principle is critical to Japan’s long-term food security and natural resource management, he said.

The reporter apparently failed to ask Sato why marine resources are diminishing. No doubt he would have explained that the main reason is over fishing, destructive fishing practices and poor fisheries management. Japan is far from the only country to blame for that, but as one of the biggest consumers of fish in the world does share the blame.

And the Fisheries Agency of Japan, which oversees Japan's whaling fleet, is one of the institutions failing to manage our global fisheries.