New Japanese Foreign Minister blindly pledges support for whaling

Press release - 11 December, 2009
In its first public statement on whaling policy, the recently elected Democratic Party of Japan has drawn criticism from Greenpeace, after new Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada yesterday announced that there will be no immediate review, nor likely reduction in support for its so-called "scientific" whaling programme.

Minister Okada stated that things would be different if the whales Japan was hunting were endangered, however, Japan already issues itself permits to target fin whales, which were reconfirmed as endangered in 2008 by the internationally respected IUCN(2), and humpbacks which are listed as threatened.

He also makes the tired old claim that whaling is a cultural practice that must be respected. However, there is nothing traditional about factory whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary(3), and there is little demand for whale meat, with surveys repeatedly showing that less than 5% of Japanese people eat whale meat regularly(3).

Demand has decreased so much that thousands of tonnes of meat is piling up in warehouses(3), and all ex-whaling companies have said they would not return to the practice even if the ban were lifted.

"It is perplexing why a new government would jeopardise its international reputation for such a small percent of the population," said Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan.

"If Minister Okada truly believes what he is saying, then Japan must immediately remove fin whales from its target, and bring an end this disastrous, unnecessary programme," concluded Hoshikawa.

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

Other contacts: Greg McNevin - Greenpeace International Communications
+31 (0) 6 2900 1152,

Kaoru Narisawa - Greenpeace Japan Communications
+81 (0)3 5338 9803,

Notes: (1) Interview with Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, The Australian, December 11, 2009

(2) International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN redlist) Fin Whale listing

(3) Japan has recognised the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary, so it is targeting fin whales to gather data for a commercial hunt in the area, despite agreeing to measures forbidding commercial hunting of the species.

Para 7 b of the IWC Schedule provides:

b) In accordance with Article V(1)(c) of the Convention, commercial whaling, whether by pelagic operations or from land stations, is prohibited in a region designated as the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. This Sanctuary comprises the waters of the Southern Hemisphere southwards of the following line: starting from 40 degrees S, 50 degrees W; thence due east to 20 degrees E; thence due south to 55 degrees S; thence due east to 130 degrees E; thence due north to 40 degrees S; thence due east to 130 degrees W; thence due south to 60 degrees S; thence due east to 50 degrees W; thence due north to the point of beginning. This prohibition applies irrespective of the conservation status of baleen and toothed whale stocks in this Sanctuary, as may from time to time be determined by the Commission. However, this prohibition shall be reviewed ten years after its initial adoption and at succeeding ten year intervals, and could be revised at such times by the Commission. Nothing in this sub-paragraph is intended to prejudice the special legal and political status of Antarctica.**

[Paragraph 7(b) footnote]
** The Government of Japan lodged an objection within the prescribed period to paragraph 7(b) to the extent that it applies to the Antarctic minke whale stocks.

(3) Surveys: Whale meat in Japan

(4) Newly released figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF) show that stockpiles of whale meat from the hunt are sitting at over 4,900 tonnes - a figure that is likely to jump again following this year's season.

(5) The whaling industry is notorious for being riddled with corruption and a black hole for billions of tax-payer yen, illustrated by the whale meat embezzlement scandal exposed by Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki. 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 Sato and 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. Sato 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. They are now on trial and facing ten years in prison.