Shipment of whale meat from Iceland arrives in Japan

by Junichi Sato

May 8, 2014

First fin whales brought to land. The boat, Hvalur 9, is entering Hvalfjordur-fjord. The first fin whale that was cut was female and 18 meters long.

© Greenpeace

We had a strange visitor to Japan yesterday. The Alma, a refrigerated cargo vessel which has sailed all the way from Iceland, brought 2,000 tons of fin whale meat, valued at over 13 million US dollars. It sailed around the tip of Africa, cut out a planned refueling stop in Durban (after over20,000 South Africansasked their government to refuse to allow whale meat to enter the country), and then quickly refueled in Mauritius without entering port.

Its arrival here has almost doubled the stockpile of unsold whale meat sitting in freezers around Japan.

Iceland hunts these whales only for export to Japan. Few in Iceland eats them. But fewer and fewer people in Japan eat whale. A poll by the respected Asahi newspaper last month found that just 4 percent of respondents occasionally eat whale meat, while 10 percent said they eat whale meat on rare occasions. Forty-eight percent said they have had whale meat once in the distant past, but they have not had it recently. Thirty-seven percent, including roughly half of respondents in their 20s and 30s, said they do not eat whale meat at all.

A shipment of 2000 tons of meat from endangered whales is unloaded in a Japanese port.

A shipment of meat from endangered whales is unloaded in a Japanese port.

Japans whalers are losing money because so few people want their product. The industry can only survive with government support. Each year it needs more money. The whalers are having to decrease their catch because whale meat is hard to sell. It doesnt make sense that Iceland wants to prolong its exports to this collapsing market.

A lot of people and media in Japan argue that we need to protect Japanese culture and tradition. I totally agree to protect culture, if what we are talking about is actually part of the traditional culture.

Sneaking 2,000 tons of whale meat from an endangered species to Japan from Iceland does not sound like our culture at all.

By Junichi Sato

Junichi Sato is the executive director of Greenpeace Japan and one of the "Tokyo Two" arrested following an investigation into the whale meat trade in Japan.

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