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2011-06-21

The Whaling Debate in Japan

JWCS Letter No.54 (February 2008)extracts and comments

In Japan, the debate on cetacean conservation centers on the question of whaling.

●”Do whales destroy the sea?”
The Japan Whaling Association(日本捕鯨協会)and the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) have produced leaflets saying that “Rising whale populations consume huge quantities of fish. If things continue this way, the marine ecosystem itself may be endangered.” (see picture) Moreover, the “whales as pests” stance has been used to justify the culling of minke whales.
 While manning JWCS booths at conservation events, we often meet people who truly believe that whales are pests. “It must be true; the government says so!” they say.
 We decided to clarify the matter and see whether the decline of coastal fisheries is due to an increase in whales. Using statistics from MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) we compared the variation in coastal fisheries catches and in coastal whaling since the pre-war days. (Graphs 1&2)
MAFF’s annual report, the “Fisheries White Paper”, attributed the increase of the fishery yield in the 60s to technological innovation during the rapid economic growth period and capital investment due to improved economic and social conditions. Later, they attributed the sharp drop in catches in the 90s to overfishing and a decrease in natural seashore habitat necessary for fry.
Japan started to catch fin and blue whales in coastal areas around 1900. Minke whaling started in about 1948, because large whales were no longer available.
The graph shows no evidence that the decrease in yield is “because whales ate the fish.”

●Are whales dishes really a Japanese tradition?
There are those who claim that “eating whales is Japanese traditional culture, so anti-whaling countries should respect our culture”. However, in the era when people rowed out in small boats to take whales with handheld harpoons, the catch was small and the regions where people ate whales limited. The boom in whale meat in Japan came after the introduction of “Norwegian whaling”, using steamships and harpoon-guns.
Under the Meiji government’s strategy to “enrich the nation and strengthen defenses”, the expansion of the whaling industry became national policy, and later, after WWII, whale meat gained further importance as a solution to the postwar food crisis. This is too short a period to justify calling it a tradition (graph 3). The nationwide consumption of whalemeat was not a matter of culture but of national policy.


Data of graph 1,2,3
“the Annual Statistics by WAFF Meiji 1(1868)~Syowa 28(1953)”
“the Statistics by WAFF ” “ the Chronological table of the harvest statistics about fisheries and aquacultures the harvest by the kinds of main fisheries and fishes”
(note) The data of whaling starts from1915.
Until 1950s sei whales and Bryde’s whales are confused. The number of outflow is also included.
Graph12_4
Graph 2
The data of” the coastal whaling” includes the yield by whaling at Ogasawara base. Besides, the data until 1945 includes the yield in the expanded areas by the World War Ⅱ. Because the harvest except for “whaling” is included in the “marine mamma1s”, it is not included in this graph.

Graph3

Graph 3
In every sea water, the number shows the total of blue whales, fin whales, humpback whales, sei whales, sperm whales, and minke whales.
The number of” the Antarctic Ocean” shows the harvest in the year of return after finishing fishing. In the data of” the North Pacific Ocean”, it is unsure that there was fishing in the fishing season between 1940 and 1941. The commercial whaling has been abandoned since between 1986 and 1987. The yields come from “the capture inspection of whaling in the Antarctic Ocean “between 1990 and1991. The numbers since 1994 come from “the capture inspection of minke whales in the North Pacific Ocean”.
(graphs made by Kirie Suzuki in JWCS)

references:”Fishery white paper” http://www.maff.go.jp/j/wpaper/index.html ” The annual report about the fishery current in Heisei 4 30years of our fishery” “The annual report about the fishery current in Heisei 11 The trend of fishery harvest and aquatic resources around our sea waters” “The annual report about the fishery current in Heisei 11 Whales eating much fishes beyond our imagination”. The white paper in Heisei 13 followed by IWC (International Whaling Commission) meeting at Simonoseki said that “eating by marine mammals “such as whales caused the decrease of aquatic resources.


Translation:
JWCS Volunteer staff: Nobuko Ishizuka, Simon Varnam


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