Also in this issue: 24K Killed · Vote Buying Scandal · Solomons' Choice · The Ulsan Ultimatum
Eco 2005, 20 June, Volume LVII, No. 1. Reports from the International Whaling Commission annual meeting in Ulsan, Republic of Korea

Japan Targets Humpbacks in Expanded "Scientific" Whaling Proposal

Japan's proposed increase in "scientific whaling" in the southern oceans, announced in April, has generated enormous outrage around the world. Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the US have all voiced opposition to the planned increase in whaling. Japan's move has launched unprecedented diplomatic interventions and protests, along with talk of boycotts, trade sanctions, and international court lawsuits against the rogue nation's war on whales.humpback in crosshairs

Japan proposes not only to increase its self-approved whale quota of 400 minke whales, under the "scientific" research loophole. The Japanese have also proposed killing, for the first time, two new species: humpback and fin whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Japan refuses to provide numbers of whales for its proposal until the IWC meetings.

The International Whaling Commission has repeatedly passed resolutions condemning the scientific whaling scam by Japan, urging Japan to drop the ruse. Virtually none of the "scientific" research conducted through the program of killing whales has ever been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The research whaling is denounced as commercial whaling in disguise. DNA analysis of whale meat purchased on the Japanese market has revealed a number of endangered species showing up in the catch.

Humpback and fin whales were both severely depleted during the whaling period following World War II, far more so than other species that Japan now targets, such as minke, sperm, and small cetaceans. Furthermore, a large and valuable whalewatching industry has sprung up in Australia and other countries focused on humpback whales. The humpbacks migrate throughout the Antarctic and spend time in local coastal waters, where whalewatching tourism brings in millions of dollars annually.

In an unusual diplomatic intervention, Australian Prime Minister John Howard brought the issue directly to Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, stating bluntly that killing whales for research purposes was unnecessary.

"There is clear evidence of the extent of public interest in the continued health and welfare of whales and considerable public concern could be expected, not only in Australia, but across the globe, were whaling to increase," PM Howard wrote.

Howard is under considerable pressure back home. Many newspapers and opposition political leaders have called for sterner measures against Japan's whaling, including trade boycotts and taking Japan to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said Australia would press for reform of the IWC to have all forms of whaling banned, not just commercial whaling.

Similar proposals have been made in New Zealand. Conservation Minister Chris Carter told NZ Press Association that an International Court case was being considered against Japan, if Japan goes forward with killing endangered humpback whales.

"I think the time has come to look at diplomatic measures, trade measures, to look at things consumers can do," Jeanette Fitzsimons, a NZ Green Party legislator, told NZ National Public Radio. "We've actually got to show some muscle here."

UK Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw stated: "We consider these programs (Japan's and Iceland's scientific whaling programs) to be unnecessary, deeply flawed, and of questionable scientific value, and we urge both countries to abandon them."

Leaders of seven major conservation organizations -- AWI, CSI, Greenpeace, HSUS, IFAW, IWC, and WDCS-- are vigorously challenging Japan's announced intention to expand its on-going "scientific" whale killing and are rallying others to oppose efforts by Japan and other whaling nations, including Iceland and Norway, to end the global moratorium on commercial whaling. The groups cite their support for a proposal by New Zealand, circulated at the IWC meeting in Copenhagen, to amend the IWC convention to close the loopholes that allow continued whaling.

Despite Moratorium, 24,000 Whales Die

Year Country Species Category Killed
2000/01 Total       1,015
2001/02 Japan NP minke SP 100
  Japan NP Brydes SP 50
  Japan NP sperm SP 8
  Japan NP sei SP 1
  Japan SH minke SP 440
  Norway NA minke OBJ 552
2001/02 Total       1,151
2002/03 Japan NP minke SP 150
  Japan NP Brydes SP 50
  Japan NP sperm SP 5
  Japan NP sei SP 39
  Japan SH minke SP 440
  Norway NA minke OBJ 634
2002/03 Total       1,318
Total whales killed since the moratorium went into effect:   24,041

The International Whaling Commission instituted a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1985. Now, twenty years later, commercial whaling continues, often under the guise of "research." How many whales have died during this moratorium?

The numbers are startling. More than 24,000 whales have been killed, mainly by Japan, Norway, and Iceland, since the moratorium went into effect. With the Republic of Korea intending to resume commercial, er, "scientific" whaling, the moratorium appears to be a convenient diplomatic fiction.

Japan's Flagrant Vote-Buying Scandal

For the fifth year in a row, Japan's votes-for-aid strategy is expected to dominate the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission. Tens of millions of dollars in "fisheries aid" are funneled each year from Tokyo to more than 20 small nations in return for their pro-whaling votes at the IWC.

The vote-buying issue has been so explosive that the IWC meetings have been paralyzed for hours at a time each of the past four years as pro-whaling commissioners protested revelations by NGOs. In 2003, ECO was even banned for a day. And last year, calls were made to banish a leading conservation group from attendance just for speaking out.

The flagrant bribery of impoverished nations by Japan has drawn increasing criticism from a broad range of nations for more than a decade. The issue was raised to the highest diplomatic levels in 2001 when New Zealand issued a statement from its prime minister, Helen Clark, forcefully condemning Japan's vote-buying practice:

"New Zealand and other countries opposed to whaling have long suspected that Japan was using overseas development aid money to persuade poorer nations, with any direct interest in whaling, to support Japan's pro-whaling stance at the International Whaling Commission."

Japan's deputy whaling commissioner had touched off a firestorm when he defended Japan's yen diplomacy in a July 2001 interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Masayuki Komatsu stated that there was "nothing wrong" with using Overseas Development Aid (ODA) to buy votes at the IWC.

Reacting to Komatsu's statement, Prime Minister Clark stated: "Japan must surely be embarrassed by today's revelation from one of its own senior officialsŠ. When put alongside Japan's longstanding but spurious assertion that it is taking large numbers of whales for purely 'scientific' and 'research' purposes, this confirmation of Japan's tactics shows the desperate lengths it will go to in order to maintain whaling. If Japan is indeed indulging in the sort of behavior alluded to by Mr. Komatsu, it can only underline the bankruptcy of its stance on whaling."

Prime Minister Clark recently traveled to Tokyo to once again chastise Japan, urging the government to take seriously the concerns of "a very wide cross-section of Japan's friends." Fifteen IWC member nations, including the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, presented a diplomatic letter, a "demarche," to Japan in early June. It calls on Japan to withdraw its plans to vastly enlarge its self-granted "scientific research" whaling.

New Zealand's aggressive attack on Japan in 2001 touched off a crisis between the two nations that raged for months and included a name-calling campaign against Prime Minister Clark by high-level Japanese officials.

New Zealand humiliated Japan by publicly citing the 1970 Declaration of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States, which in accordance with the United Nations Charter stipulates that: "No state may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce another state in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights and to secure from it advantages of any kind."

At the 2001 IWC meeting, New Zealand's Conservation Minister, Sandra Lee, denounced Japan's corruption of the IWC: "New Zealand fails to see how tied aid or vote buying promotes good faith, transparency or basic respect for independent governments. My government believes it is important that the IWC is not perceived as condoning such strategies that would ultimately see participation by all but a few affluent nations becoming an exercise in futility."

In recent years, Japan has been using fisheries aid to recruit small Pacific island nations to join the IWC and vote pro-whaling. This has alarmed Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Great Britain and France, which have major interests in the region and support the creation of a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific.

Over the past 18 years, more than $160 million in Japanese fisheries aid was pumped into Caribbean island nations that have danced to Japan's tune, according to the aid statistics of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2002 alone, Japanese fisheries aid to Dominica exceeded $13 million and to Grenada $11 million.

Corrupt regimes in the Caribbean have openly admitted selling their votes to Japan at the IWC. Lester Bird, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, explained in 2001 his nation's pro-whaling votes: "Quite frankly, I make no bones about itŠif we are able to support the Japanese and the quid pro quo is that they are going to give us assistance, I am not going to be a hypocrite; that is part of why we do so." That cynicism led to the overthrow of the notorious Bird regime in elections last year.

Daven Joseph, the Antigua/Barbuda whaling commissioner for many years, has been Japan's leading proponent in the Caribbean. After losing his parliamentary seat, his commissionership and his ambassadorship to Japan in the election, he turned up at the IWC last year wearing the hat of St. Kitts and Nevis, which is hosting the 2006 IWC meeting.

In 2001, the official newsletter of the Antigua/Barbuda government published an article entitled "Antigua Government Getting Returns." It cited a $17 million fisheries grant from Japan as having come "as a direct result of its pro-whaling stance." Planning Minister Gaston Browne, when asked if Antigua's vote at the IWC was a factor in the grant, stated that, "If we were to antagonize them, I imagine that they would not be so anxious to assist us."

Bribing small nations is now becoming big business for powerful nations. China is now emulating Japan by shelling out huge sums of aid in return for those nations' diplomatic recognition. Last year, Dominica agreed to drop its recognition of Taiwan and join forces with China at the U.N. in return for $122 million in aid. The mountain of cash for the 70,000 inhabitants of Dominica will cover more than a third of the national budget over five years. This year, Grenada also sold out its long-time ally, Taiwan, in favor of tens of millions of dollars from China, and other Caribbean nations are lining up for the Beijing gravy train.

The Economist commented last year that, "Trading away their sovereignty is a well-established way for small states to make fast cash. As eco-tourism and agriculture have drifted, Dominica has sold passports, hosted offshore banks and voted alongside Japan for commercial whaling. But playing off Taiwan and China is the favorite local game."

The world community is now recognizing that corruption is a cancer upon good governance and civil society. Unfortunately, some powerful nations are aggressively practicing this evil through vote-buying.

right whale

Solomons Breaking from Pack?

Word has it that the Solomon Islands Government has withdrawn support for Japan's plans to expand its whaling program, following a meeting with Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza reported that the Solomons will vote against Japan's proposal to expand its scientific whaling program and will abstain on any return to commercial whaling.

The Solomon Islands, along with the Carribean bloc, has regularly supported Japan at the IWC, allegedly in return for lucrative aid packages.

Senator Campbell stated: "I'm very pleased that the Prime Minister has given a commitment to support Australia's position to oppose any expansion of so-called scientific whaling and also to ensure that the Government of the Solomons won't support a return and a re-opening of commercial whaling," he said.

Republic of Korea to go Whaling

Vice Minister Moo-Hyun Kang of the Republic of Korea's Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries announced that Korea would take the necessary steps to resume commercial whaling, including conducting scientific whaling to "promote experiments with" the IWC Revised Management Procedure. The press statement included proposals to research small cetaceans as well.

It is no secret that the Republic of Korea has been pressing to continue commercial whaling. Minke whales caught "accidentally" in fishermen's' nets, reportedly almost 400 per year, are routinely processed into meat and sold in Korean markets.

Greenpeace and the Korean Federation of Environmental Movement (KFEM) have been occupying a site in Ulsan with a "Whale Embassy." The site is proposed for a Korean whale meat factory to process the expected commercial whaling catch.

"These whales are destined to become part of a lucrative whale meat industry, an industry that will lead to the extinction of Korea's minke whales within our lifetimes," said Yeyong Choi of KFEM.

fin whale