Greenpeace Urges Hatoyama and Obama to Keep Election Promises and End Whaling

Press release - 10 November, 2009
Just 48 hours before new Prime Minister Hatoyama plays host to US President Barack Obama, Greenpeace activists unveiled a large whale sculpture outside the Japanese Diet, to remind both heads of state to uphold their respective election promises to end corruption and waste, as well as so-called "scientific" whaling(1). A new review of government spending in Japan is a significant opportunity to achieve both goals and in the process enable Japan to also redeem its international reputation.

A government review 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 hunt, and the MoFA Grant Aid has been used the "buy" votes in support of whaling at the International Whaling Commission.

Greenpeace has lodged a submission recommending that the whaling programme be reviewed through this process, as it is not only rife with corruption(2), but also a huge waste of taxpayer money, costing 795 million yen (US$8.8 million) in government subsidies this year alone.

"During this year's landmark elections, Prime Minister Hatoyama promised to eliminate corruption in government agencies and stamp out the waste of taxpayer money," said Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. "The whaling industry is a prime example of both these issues, and would also be viewed favourably by the US Administration at a key time diplomatically."

The review set out four criteria to determine if the government should continue to fund the programme, a Greenpeace submission to the review committee shows that the whaling programme fails on all four counts (3). 

1.    Appropriate use of taxpayers' money: The stated objective of the whaling programme is to gather scientific data to enable 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 of the programme: A review of the first 18 years of the whaling programme concluded it failed to meet a single objective.

3.    Efficiency of the programme: The programme is a loss-making one and the ICR is even unable to repay government loans because of the growing cost of the operation and the falling price of the limited amount of whale meat sold.

4.    Greater needs than other programmes: The programme is not needed domestically and not wanted internationally.

In short, whaling continues purely for the benefit of bureaucrats - the last six directors of the "independent" institute which runs the programme have all come from the Fisheries Agency, enjoying generous salaries thanks to the subsidies from the Agency.

"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," said Hoshikawa. "And as the review deadline is just days before President Obama's visit to Japan, Prime Minister Hatoyama also has a unique opportunity to resolve a point of long-standing contention with the United States."

Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.

Notes: (1) US State Department Statement on Whaling: The United States is committed to advancing the global conservation and management of large whale populations through science-based policies and leadership in the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The United States continues to view the commercial whaling moratorium as a necessary conservation measure and believes that lethal scientific whaling is unnecessary in modern whale conservation management.

(2) In April 2008 Greenpeace began an investigation into whistleblower 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 following his advice Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki began an investigation, eventually discovering firm evidence 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 June 20 - the same day that both men were arrested and then held for 26 days before being charged with theft and trespass.