Japan keeps whaling Marine Mannechez 25/01/2017

The article in general

The article I chose was published on January 16, 2017 by The Independent and was written by Tom Westbrook.

The main subject of this article is the disappointment of Australia over Japan, who keeps hunting whales.

Last week, Sea Shepherd posted a photography of a dead whale on board of a Japanese Vessel.

Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Established in 1977, its mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Even if it is not the first time Anti-whaling activists had published pictures against Japan’s activities, once again, it didn’t stopped them. And once again, Australian government reacted over Japan's actions.

In 2014, Australia brought a case to the International Court of Justice which realised Japan’s whaling program was not for scientific purposes. The Court ordered that "Japan revoke any extant authorization, permit or license to kill, take or treat whales" for one season. Now the season is over, Japan goes back to its favourite activity; whaling.

Since 1987, Japan has shifted from commercial whaling to scientific whaling.

Scientific whaling is written in the Article VIII of the convention of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The Article VIII claims that each member nation can grant its nationals a permit to take or kill whales for scientific purposes. Dissimilar from the international regulations on commercial and aboriginal whaling, the scientific researches and the number of whales killed for scientific purposes are unilateral. Although the Scientific Committee (SC) of the IWC attempted to provide expert assessment of national research plans, the nations carrying out scientific whaling, especially Japan, still use scientific whaling as an alibi for their excess in whaling.

Australian government is pretty bored with Japan actions, and especially the Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg who said: “ It is not necessary to kill whales in order to study them”. Australia is against all forms of commercial and scientific whaling, so they will keep fighting against Japan whaling. Especially when you kill them into an Australian sanctuary.

I thought it would be interesting to try to understand the Japanese point of view, to get why they kill that much whales every year. I actually found an interesting web site which list facts and details about whales, whaling and Japan.

Whales, Whaling and Japan

Whales and Japan

 The Japanese have been hunting whales for more than 1 000 years. There are dozens of religious ceremonies, shires and festivals that incorporate whales in some way.

For example, Whalebone sticks are used to strike bells at Gion Matsuri festival in Kyoto.

 The whaling industry has a political clout in Japan and is strongly supported by nationalists and right wing extremists, who call the denial of Japanese right to eat and hunt whales for “cultural imperialism”. Some whaling towns still have towers dedicated to souls of whales.

Love of Whale Meat in Japan

 Many Japanese, especially older and middle ages, enjoy eating whale meat. Japanese say it tastes more like beef than fish. Whale bacon is sold for as much as $180 a pound at gourmet food shops and dishes made with whale go for as much as $100 a plate at restaurants.

Taruichi, a Tokyo restaurant that specializes in whale meat, offers 36 choices: fried whale, whale bacon, whale heart, whale testicles, whale kidney and even ice cream made with whale fat. Boiled tongue is said to be particularly delicious. At whale restaurants in Shimonoseki you can get fried whale tail, grilled whale tongue wafers, boiled blubber and whale sashimi. In some places you can get sliced whale skin and whale burgers made with fried minke whale.

 Whale meat distributors claim that whale meat is high in protein and low in calories and have alleviated the problem of toughness associated with whale meat through improved freezing techniques. Tail meat is sold for as much $70 a pound and is prized for whale sashimi. Which is eaten with grated garlic or ginger to mask the odor.

The health benefits of whale meat are the subject of some debate. One study found that Japanese in Wakayama Prefecture that eat pilot whale have high levels of mercury in their hair.

 The amount of whale meat consumed rose from 2,450 tons in 2000, to 5,560 tons in 2005. In a survey in 2002, 63 % of the people over 60 years old and 47 % of those between 20 and 24 said they ate whale meat, but of these 40 percent said they only eat it “sometimes."

The Japanese were encouraged to eat whale meat after World War II to stave off famine and school children ate whale meat for lunch into the 1960s. One elderly man who ate a lot of whale when he was growing up told the New York Times, "After the war, there was nothing to eat in Japan, and we would have starved if it were not for the whale bacon and steaks that the government provided us in school lunches."

 Polls indicate that 56 percent of Japanese approve of eating whale, with support especially strong among men and people over 40. “Much of this support isn't because people are pro-whaling or are willing to eat whale meat," Atsushi Ischii, specialist in environmental policy at Tohuku University told the Los Angeles Times. “People are against the anti-whalers. They don't like being told what to do by outside groups."

Many Japanese consider American, European and Australian criticism of eating whale to be "culinary imperialism." One whale meat lover told Time, "Japanese think it is strange that Americans hunt deer. But I don't tell Americans not to kill deer. Why should they ask us not to eat whale?" Other Japanese say that raising cattle in small enclosures with hormones and killing them with electric prods is much crueler than whaling. Another man told the New York Times, "We may eat whale but we also revere it. How can a total stranger tell us not to hunt whales without knowing how much this meat means to us?"

 Even people who don't like whale support the right of the Japanese to hunt whale, from the point of view that others don't have the right to tell the Japanese what to do. One Japanese lawmaker told the BBC: "In Japan we have pet dogs. But we don't tell the Koreans to stop eating dogs".

 Joji Morishita of the powerful government Fisheries Agency told the Los Angeles Times, “What would the Americans say if India suddenly said they should stop eating beef because the cow is special to their culture? That's what is happening to us. "

Japanese Whale Hunting

 There are four main whaling ports: Ayukawahama in Miyagi Prefecture, Abashiri in Hokkaido, Wadamachi in Chiba Prefecture and Taijicho in Wakayama Prefecture.

Japanese whalers operating near Japan use boats armed with harpoons to go after single whales in the May-to-October whaling season.

 Japan's coastal whaling is based in four small ports where whale has long been a traditional food item, unlike much of the rest of Japan, where it was added to the menu only after World War II. Ayukawahama in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture is Japan's main whaling port.

Martin Fackler wrote in the New York Times, “Ayukawahama is a small harbor town of some 4,600 mostly graying residents on Japan's northern coast, where whaling boats sit docked with harpoon guns proudly displayed, and shops sell carvings made from the ivory teeth of whales."

April has traditionally been the town's most festive month, especially when large whales were brought ashore. Ayukawahama was at its peak in the years after World War II, when Japan's whaling industry boomed as a provider of scarce protein and whaling boats from Ayukawahama ranged from Alaska to the Antarctic.

 Residents of Ayukawahama have said Tokyo should negotiate with the International Whaling Commission to allow them to double the size of the coastal hunt, even if it meant giving up the Antarctic program.

Reasons for Resuming Whaling by Japan

In recent years the Japanese have begun making the argument that whales eat so much fish they are starting to cause fish stocks to decline. According to this argument killing whales will result in more fish for humans to eat. One of Japan's whaling negotiators even went as far as calling mink whales "the cockroach of the ocean" because of the each large amount of fish they eat

One Japanese survey reported that whales annually consume between 300 million and 500 million tons of fish resources a year while the world's fishing boats only harvest about 100 million tons. They have also gone as far as saying that decline in fish stocks are the result of whales not overfishing by humans.

The Importance of Whales for the World

Whales and the Environment

 When it comes to the environment and the oceans ecosystem whales help regulate the flow of food by helping to maintain a stable food chain and ensuring that certain animal species do not overpopulate the ocean.

A blue whale for example can consume as much as 40 million krill per day, so you can imagine the impact this would have on stabilizing the aquatic ecosystem if the blue whale species were to become extinct.

 When one species of animal that is important to the food chain dies it allows other species to thrive.

At first it may appear that other species are benefiting from no longer having to face a predator such as whales, but over time these animals will overpopulate and possibly destroy the population of other species that it feeds on, so whales play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem by making sure other species do not overpopulate and destroy the species below them in the food chain

Whales, Tourism and Growing Economies

 Whale watching has become a huge international spectator activity and tourism booster over the last several decades.

 People hoping to get a glance of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat have spent billions of dollars.

 This spending has led to a steady increase in economic growth and stimulation for both wealthy and developing economies worldwide and has become a major source of income for some countries as part of their tourist attraction.

The growing interest in whale watching has become an increasingly important component for economies that are looking to increase their global presence and attract the interests of other countries.

What will happen if Whales become extinct?

Let’s recap what we just said about whales:

 Whales play an important part within the marine ecosystem, and if they were to disappear, the delicate balance of nature would be disrupted. Every time a whale dies, it leaves behind a carcass that provides food and vital nutrition for literally hundreds of marine life organisms. Other species of fish, including sharks, also obtain food from a whale carcass. Without this bountiful source of food, certain parts of the ocean would cease to thrive.
 Living whales also heavily contribute to the marine ecosystem in the form of whale feces. According to the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife News, a study found that whale feces is filled with rich nutrients that include nitrogen, which stimulates the growth of plants. Organisms, such as plankton, that feed the ocean food chain also benefit from tons of whale feces floating on the ocean's surface. The disappearance of this source of natural nitrogen is likely to have a negative effect on plant and food production.
But also the economies of Canada and the United States would suffer from a lack of tourist dollars because whale watching is very popular

My Opinion on the subject

Thanks to this Press Review, I have learnt how important whales are for the Japanese. But I feel like they forgot why people hunted them a thousand of years ago and now they just see the fact that they can make a lot of money thanks to this mammal. It is pretty sad they don’t get the importance of whales for the world ecosystem! But I also thing the International Whaling Commission should be stricter with Japan. Even if eating whales is part of their culture, and I don’t ask them to change it, but I don’t think they need to eat meat whales every week! For me, both parts should try to understand one another: Japan should reduce the number of whales they kill and the rest of the world should perceive the importance of whales in the Japanese culture. Finally, Australia must keep eyes on Japanese whaling activities, and maybe they will see the importance of the situation.

Thanks for your time,

Marine Mannechez



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