Obama and the whale

Feature story - 10 November, 2009
The government of Japan has decided to look into wasteful spending. We can't think of a greater waste than the Japanese whaling programme. So we sent a delegation to the place where the review committee is meeting.

Obama joins Greenpeace to save whales!

Our delegation consisted of one giant inflatable manga whale accompanied by a slightly fishy President Obama and a very plastic Prime Minister Hatoyama -- who both appeared to be calling for a review of 'research' whaling and an end to a waste of taxpayers' money. Hundreds of whales are killed each year in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in a government-supporterd "research" programme.

Our activists in Japan unveiled this large whale sculpture alongside the fake world leaders - just 48 hours before the real Prime Minister Hatoyama plays host to the real US President Obama. We're reminding both heads of state to uphold their respective election promises to end corruption and waste, and to challenge Japan's so-called "scientific" whaling. A new review of government spending in Japan offers a rare opportunity to achieve both goals while enabling Japan to redeem its international reputation.

Mispending of taxpayer money wasthe number one reason that the former Japanese Government was kicked out of office in early September. By reviewing this programme and cutting its subsidies Prime Minister Hatoyama can demonstrate to the Japanese people that he is serious about his election promises. And as the review deadline is just days before President Obama's visit to Japan, Hatoyama also has a unique chance to resolve a point of long-standing contention with the US.Tokyo Two awaiting trial.

We're urging President Obama to advocate for 'research' whaling to be axed as part of the review, during his meeting with Prime Minister Hatoyama in Tokyo this coming weekend.  

The government committee has identified more than 200 government programmes to review. Two could have a direct impact on the government-funded whaling programme: the Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation (OFCF) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Grant Aid programme. The OFCF directly funds the Institute for Cetacean Research, which conducts the whale hunt, and the MoFA Grant Aid has been used to "buy" votes in support of whaling at the International Whaling Commission.

A 'fail whale' by all accounts

We have lodged an official submission to the review committee recommending that 'research' whaling be reviewed through this process, as it is not only rife with corruption, but also a huge waste of taxpayer money, costing 795 million yen (US$8.8 million) in government subsidies this year alone.

Four criteria are used to determine if the government should continue to fund a programme and our submission shows that whaling fails on all four counts:

  1. Appropriate use of taxpayers' money: The stated objective of the whale hunt is to gather scientific data that enables a resumption of commercial whaling in the future. Commercial whaling is currently banned by international regulations and former commercial whaling companies in Japan have made it clear they have no interest in resuming it, given the lack of demand.
  2. Effectiveness: The effectiveness of the means of capturing a huge numbers of whales is lacking in the extreme. A review of the first 18 years of the Southern Ocean whale hunt concluded that it failed to meet a single objective.
  3. Efficiency: Whaling is only making losses. The growing cost of the operation, together with the falling price of the limited amount of whale meat sold, means that the ICR is unable to repay government loans.
  4. Greater needs than other programmes: Whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is not needed domestically and not wanted internationally.

Something smells fishy...

Whaling continues purely for the benefit of bureaucrats - the last six directors of the 'independent' institute which runs the hunt have all come from the Fisheries Agency, enjoying generous salaries thanks to the subsidies from the Agency.

We've made it clear to the media and the politicians in Japan that whaling must be part of this ongoing debate. And our Tokyo Two activists who exposed corruption from deep within the whaling industry - are still awaiting trial. Parallel to preparing for a decision from the Supreme Court on disclosure of evidence of the embezzlement scandal being allowed in the trial -- we are taking the political work to the next level. Early next week we're sending a whales and Tokyo Two briefing to over 100 key Parliament members and we'll be following the government review process closely.

This month the whaling fleet is preparing for another voyage into the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. But if the review committee makes the right decision - we can stop the fleet from leaving port - forever. 

Take Action

Write to Japan's Supreme Public Prosecutor's office and insist that they reopen their investigation into the whale meat embezzlement.

Support Us

Junichi and Toru continue to face a maximum of 10 years in prison for exposing government corruption. We're doing all we can to support them and to bring an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean. But we're only able to do this with the donations from individuals like you. Please give what you can today and join the global movement to save the whales!