Earth Island Institute

ECO: The environmental voice at the IWC

ECO is published by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission on behalf of environmental and animal welfare organizations around the globe.

For further information, please contact: Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director, Earth Island Institute, International Marine Mammal Project.

Previous volumes of ECO are available here.


Whaling in Japan: US Supported Scientific Whaling

Volume LXII · Agadir, Morocco · No. 2 · Tuesday June 22, 2010
Acrobat .pdf of issue

ECO continues our quotes from the new book, Whaling in Japan: Power, Politics, and Diplomacy by Dr. Jun Morikawa.

According to officials of the Japan Fisheries Agency, the US knew about and approved Japan’s plan for issuing scientific whaling permits in the Southern Ocean in 1987-88 when Japan proposed it:

“It appears that Prime Minister Nakasone, himself from the landlocked prefecture of Gunma in central Japan, feared charges of unfairness and counseled caution in the way whaling for scientific purposes should proceed. According to (Goroku) Satake (head of Japan Fisheries Agency from July 1986 to end of 1987), right before his visit to the United States in April, Nakasone said: ‘A catch of 875 whales (by scientific permit) seems overly large and we don’t want to give an impression of being unfair’, adding that he ‘didn’t want to be upset by the unseemly scenes of environmental groups around the White House greeting Japanese dignitaries with papier-mâché whales.’ Satake understood Nakasone’s concerns: he ‘approached the researchers’ group, asking them if it was possible to amend their plan taking into account the discussions of the IWC Scientific Committee. He also asked them whether a meaningful survey could be carried out by reducing the number of whales caught to around 300.’ Satake obtained the researchers’ group reduction plan and in October took the new plan to Washington, where its stance was praised for adhering to the IWC framework.

“Despite these cautionary notes from the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office, it is clear from Satake’s writings that he understood the need for diplomatic compromise but never lost sight of his ultimate goal – gaining acceptance for scientific research whaling. Satake says the Japanese side recognized the importance of accurately assessing the situation and reading the diplomatic hints and signals from Washington:

“ ‘The negotiators were fairly sure that if they got such a hint from Washington, the U.S. government would not stand at the head of the line to bash Japan for carrying out scientific whaling … The strategy worked. The United States, not wishing to blow whaling into a bigger issue, suggested that Japan should faithfully follow the procedures within the IWC framework (for scientific permits).’

“The American side most likely failed to accurately estimate Japan’s intentions regarding the scale and method of its scientific whaling, and how lethal it would become.

“The (scientific whaling) survey proceeded without further difficulties. The goal had been accomplished. As Satake concludes:

“ ‘The ‘tranquilizer’ had been obtained, and a word from the deputy minister for foreign affairs Akao Nobutoshi, who had been present at the negotiations, had also worked effectively. Preliminary consensus-building discussions with the Japanese Embassy in Washington, with officials from the ambassador on down, had been thorough. It was also fortunate that Noboru Takeshita, whose political methods were completely different from those of Nakasone, had become prime minister. Soon after the last meeting of the IWC Scientific Committee, around December 20 the whaling fleet’s mother ship left port.’ ”

ECO notes that this story should be a cautionary tale for anyone negotiating for a “compromise” within the IWC. Be careful what you wish for …