Responsible Management of Renewable Resources: Case for Whaling

(from "Whaling for the Twenty-First Century", ICR, 1996)

Shigeko Misaki
Counsellor, International Relations
The Institute of Cetacean Research

What Whale Meat Means to the Ordinary Japanese

Whale meat used to be a part of common source of animal protein, being inexpensive and familiar to ordinary people in Japan. Many people were saved from starvation after the World War II by protein acquired from the whale meat. During the period in which Japan was under the occupation by the Allied Forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, whale meat was provided to the Japanese people from Antarctic whaling, specially permitted by General MacArthur to give protein to school children, as well as to adults living in dire situation of malnutrition.

The Japanese regarded whales as gifts from heaven; the meat of the great creatures is high in nutritional value with all of their parts utilized without waste.

The custom of eating whale meat has been traditionally common among the Japanese people, for many centuries before the post-war period. The tradition of using whale products is evidenced by the reference to whale hunters found in the Manyoshu, the earliest extant collection of Japanese poems (A.D. 360 to 759). Around the early part of the 17th century, the eating habit of whale meat began to spread from the Kansai region to many other regions of the country. Mr. Arata Wada, a descendant of the whaling chieftain of the township of Taiji in Kishu (now known as Wakayama Prefecture) during the Tokugawa period (1603-1863), tells me that his ancestors used to regularly present whale meat to the Imperial Court in Kyoto. A scroll describing the method of transporting and cooking whale meat in those days has been carefully preserved in the town.

That whale meat is particularly popular in the Kansai region can be attested to by a greater share of minke whale meat, the total volume of which amounts to only one percent of what used to be supplied by commercial whaling during the 1970s, currently allocated to that region after the collection of biological samples necessary for research purposes. This high rate of allocation was calculated on the basis of the statistics by the Prime Minister's Office*1 on actual consumption during the preceding five years to the implementation of the moratorium for all commercial whaling adopted by International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Many people around the world nowadays condemn the Japanese for eating whale meat in restaurants,*2 where supply is secured through the channel originating with the public auctions and then through the professional distributors. Many foreigners regard such habits as unnecessary because they believe that whale meat is a special 'exotic' food.*3 The short of supply of whale meat in Japan due to the commercial whaling ban created this situation. The current high market price for average people to purchase whale meat for home cooking, and the rarity of throwing a party at homes (mainly due to the smaller size of the Japanese residence in comparison with average Western houses), eventuates in the group of family or friends going to restaurants on special occasions where whale meat is served. Whale meat is as much a 'normal' food and not an 'exotic' food for the Japanese as beef, pork, mutton or any meat of other land animals are to the people of other cultures. To the Japanese, the land mammals were regarded as 'four-legged creatures' and their meat was prohibited to be eaten in Buddhism until the Meiji Restoration in the middle of the 19th century. During the years of prohibition of eating meat of the 'four-legged animals' whales were perceived by the Japanese as a kind of fish and they were highly valued as a precious protein source.

What is the Current Status of Whale Stocks?

A sharp decrease in supply in the face of continuing demand has changed the status of whale meat into a luxury food item. Why did supply decrease so sharply? Naturally, the main attributes to the decrease of supply is the commercial whaling moratorium. But even during the decade before the moratorium, which came into effect in 1986, the supply of whale meat kept dwindling down every year according to the quota given by IWC.

Has supply dropped so drastically because "all whales are nearly extinct," as some anti-whaling groups claim? The Very fact that it is not the outright answer demonstrates that it is a very complex problem. In fact, no whale species has been made extinct by commercial whaling, though it is true that commercial whaling earlier in history drastically reduced the stocks of some species, compelling the managers of the whale resources in IWC to award these stocks the status of "Protection Stock" under the New Management Procedure (NMP) practised from the early 1970s to the time of adoption of the moratorium.

However, there are other stocks that did not show signs of decrease, but rather signs of expansion. A typical example of such stocks is the Antarctic minke whales. Through the years since 1978 to the present time, the Scientific Committee of IWC (IWC/SC) has been conducting IWC/IDCR sighting surveys collecting data to assess the population of the Antarctic minke whales, as well as of other large whale species. This exercise is planned and implemented by a group of multi-national scientists approved by the IWC Scientific Committee. It undertakes analysis using the data collected by the cruise: the result of the analysis suggests that population of the Antarctic minke whales is "robust," its abundance far from being endangered.

It may be true that the balance in the Antarctic ecosystem was skewed by the massive hunting of the larger whales that ended in the middle of 20th century. The rampant whaling in those days by industries of many nations was likened to greedy and profiteering mining business. However, since the whales are renewable resources, unlike minerals or oil, is it not the responsibility of the former whaling nations to properly manage the minke whale stock whose population is plentiful, to effectively help restore the population of larger species?

When less swiftly moving larger whales and nimble and prolific animals such as minke whales compete for the same food sources, it is only common sense that the larger animals lose out in the competition leaving their stocks recover much more slowly. Concerning minke whales, neither the internationally authoritative International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) nor the National Marine and Fisheries Service of the United States, to say nothing of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), has ever designated it as a species facing extinction.

When IWC in 1993 adopted the Japanese proposal for a resolution on Research Related to Conservation of Large Baleen Whales in the Southern Oceans, the anti-whaling lobby expressed suspicions over the intent of Japan, alleging that Japan's "greedy" whalers are looking for revival of large-scale whaling for the larger species than minke whales. The intent of this proposal was to promote non-lethal research in the Southern Ocean to monitor the recovery of blue whales and other large species by IWC as a responsible management body. It is obvious that the Revised Management Procedure will not permit hunting of these greater whales at any time in the foreseeable future.

History and Present Status of Whale Stock Management

From the early 17th century to the middle of the 20th century, large whales were overhunted by Western whalers primarily for production of oil, and their numbers dwindled. The Yankee whalers, the embodiment of American spirit of pioneers and adventure in history made expeditions to the seven seas around the world. They discovered the Japan Ground with rich whale resources near Japanese waters in the early 19th century. It is a familiar story to many that the feudal isolation policy of Japan ended by the arrival of the "black ships" under the Commodore Perry, prompted by the President of the United States wishing to replenish their supplies and afford a rest for the fleet escorting the whalers.

From the beginning of the 20th century, the Western powers sent out fleets to the Antarctic waters, the last of the abundant whaling grounds. Their aim was to obtain oil from the great whales for use with machineries in their quickly developing modern industries. As a result, many of the large species have been depleted and they were protected for many decades, some as long as half a century. The population of blue whales, the largest mammal on earth, whose number was estimated to range between 150,000 and 200,000 in the Antarctic before whaling began, dwindled to mere thousands.

The history of this rapid decline in population reveals the frenzy of mankind's harvesting whales for their oil. Before petroleum became the primary source of energy, whale oil supplied to mankind high-quality lubricant and fuel for machinery and lights in the forms of candles and lamp oil. Indeed, without whale oil there might have been little chance in the early 20th century for developing efficiency of motor cars, airplanes, submarines and many other machineries, thus helping the industrialization of the advanced nations. Large whales to the modern industry were like oil wells swimming in the ocean.

Recognizing the importance of the whale oil resource 50 years ago, representatives of 15 nations gathered in Washington, D.C., and concluded the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) with the purpose of preventing overhunting of whales around the world and ensuring the sustainable use of whales for the benefit of mankind, introducing the concept of conservation. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was created as the operative agency of the Convention.

The membership of the IWC, which in the early days was more like whalers' club consisting of the 15 whaling nations, has now increased to 40, the majority of which are anti-whaling nations. There remain only six whaling nations today: Japan, the U.S., Norway, Denmark, Russia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. IWC adopted the blanket moratorium for all commercial whaling in 1982 banning catches of all whale species and stocks regardless of their differing population levels.

The moratorium was adopted by the Commission in its 34th Annual Meeting in 1982 on the grounds of 'uncertainties' surrounding the scientific knowledge of whale stocks. The adoption of the moratorium was contingent upon a review of its effects to be undertaken by the year 1990 at the latest, based on the comprehensive assessment of whale stocks by the IWC Scientific Committee. It is ironical that the Commission also approved at the same Annual Meeting a quota of 7,072 Antarctic minke whales which was to be shared between Japan and the Soviet Union based on the range of net recruitment estimated by the Scientific Committee in that year.*4

During the period since the adoption of the moratorium, the Scientific Committee made strenuous efforts to develop, by using an enormous number of computer simulations over a period of seven years, the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) which enables the long-term sustainable utilization of whales. The RMP in its complete form has cleared hurdles requiring the most stringent protection in the history of the utilization of marine resources. The IWC adopted the RMP in 1991, but has since postponed its implementation every year. Stating that this action as "contempt of science," the Chairman of the Scientific Committee, an U.K. Scientist, resigned from the chair. Progress in developing Revised Management Scheme (RMS) which is the administrative part of the management of the whale stocks, now being developed by the IWC Technical Committee is moving at a snail's pace.

Creation of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary

In addition to the moratorium, the majority of the members of IWC in 1994 voted for the creation of a vast whale sanctuary in Antarctic waters. Commercial whaling is banned over 8 million square miles of ocean, which is equal to the area from Madrid to the North Pole in the case of the northern hemisphere. That this action was not based on the opinions of scientists is clear from the fact that zigzag lines are drawn to exclude the 200-nautical mile zones of Chile and Argentina in order to solicit political support of these countries which border on the sanctuary.

The story behind the establishment of the Sanctuary in the Antarctic is explained in a letter to the Greenpeace supporters in U.K. from the group's head, Lord Melchett, in June 1994, immediately after the IWC Annual Meeting in Mexico. It says, "This sanctuary was first suggested by Greenpeace a few years ago. It was formerly proposed to the IWC by the French government, at Greenpeace's request."

What Whales Mean to the Western People, Past and Present:

Until half a century ago, large whale species were like oil fields floating in the ocean. Whale oil having been the major target of the hunts, whale meat was discarded as waste and the idea of eating it never seemed palatable to the people in the Western countries, except in the case of Norway. The use of whales only for oil resulted in the overhunting of large whale species and subsequently prohibition of hunting such depleted species as blue whales, right whales, fin whales, humpback whales and sei whales has been accorded one after another since 50 years ago.

Now whales are revered by many people as creatures enshrined at the top of the ethical value. Some readers may find it amusing to read letters arriving at my office in response to a full page advertisement ICR has carried in the scientific journal, 'Nature' in May 1995. The following are typical ones: "Stop whale killing you murderer, what you deserve is some atomic bombs again." Another reads, "The issue of numbers of animals and conservation of the species is not the sole issue of concern. Whales are large intelligent mammals WHOSE KILLING IS UNETHICAL UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES." (emphasis as original)

There is no scientific evidence that minke whales are more intelligent than other mammals, much less there is any philosophical precedent that intelligence should be the sole gauge for ethical value. Even following the human-centric gauge for animal intelligence, pigs and other domesticated animals as well as wild animals show intelligence that call for sympathy, yet few people feel guilty about eating their meat.

While there were a small number of this kind of letters to ICR, there were 27 sober inquiries from scientific institutions around the world asking for further information on the finding of the minke whale population.

At present, there is no scientific justification for denying application of the RMP to Antarctic minke whales. It is clear that the RMP only permits hunting on a very small scale in order to make long-term, sustainable catch possible, even though stocks of the species in question are abundant.

Profit-oriented, large-scale commercial whaling will certainly not be revived. The IWC is the only international organization whose function is to manage stocks of large whale species. If it deems it necessary to set up a Sanctuary as means of management, it must base its consideration on the intertwined relationships that exist in the ecosystem. The Antarctic sanctuary which the IWC has established, in this sense, is merely a political measure, overriding the works by the Scientific Committee toward sustainable management of whale stocks.

Ban on Whaling Is a Political and Cultural Issue

I stated earlier that one of the six whaling nations in IWC today is the United States. Some readers may be stunned to hear that the U.S. is a whaling nation. The Alaskan Inuit who live in the northern part of the country are U.S. citizens; they are permitted to catch 51 bowhead whales per year under a catch limit officially sanctioned by the IWC.

These bowhead whales, in the beginning of this century, were depleted to the level of one of the most endangered species of whales in the world owing to the overhunting by white men who sought baleen plates from them. The IWC Scientific Committee is fully aware of this fact. A bowhead whale weighs as much as 110 tons, which means that the amount of meat obtained from a bowhead is about ten times as much as that of a minke whale. According to a conservative estimate by the IWC Scientific Committee, minke whales which used to be hunted by the coastal small-type whalers within 200 nautical mile zone of Japan number at least 25,000.

Accepting the estimate of bowhead population of 7,500, a catch of 51 is a high percentage against the population. We find that the ratio of annual catch of 50 animals to the population of minke whales is only 0.2%. By contrast, the percentage of annual catch of 51 animals to the population of bowhead whales is 0.5%, or more than twice that of minke whales, even without consideration of the slow growth rate of bowhead.

The absolute quantity of harvested meat, 51 bowheads produce more than 1,000 tons while 50 coastal minkes produce only 150 tons. If the current rate of growth is left unchecked, the minke whales themselves may begin to suffer from its own overpopulation. An example of damage is the decrease in the stock of coastal small fish species such as merodo and sardines on which minkes feed, and subsequent changes in the ecosystem. If the minke population is left to increase to the maximum of its carrying capacity, the health of the population itself would be impaired.

Permitting their own Inuit to catch endangered bowhead whales, the United States is steadfast in its policy to ban minke whaling by the Japanese small-type coastal whaling communities. This reality vividly demonstrates that "the whaling problem is a political and cultural problem." In short, the U.S. position is that it allows the whaling by the Inuit because it is done for "cultural reasons," but prohibits Japanese whaling because it is "commercial" inasmuch as it is done for small economic gain to sustain their lifestyle.

Inuit whaling is supported by anthropologists for the Inuit's right to maintain their traditional cultural need. What is noteworthy is the fact that none of the anthropologists involved in the research is saying that the Inuit are unable to sustain their lives without eating whale meat in the present modern age. When I visited the Inuit whaling town of Barrow five years ago, I was deeply impressed with the modern lifestyle of the community, which was far richer than what I had seen in the small Japanese whaling communities. Young people were riding snowmobiles around through the night in a way reminiscent of motor cycle gangs; supermarkets are stocked with all manner of foodstuffs from beefsteaks to Japanese hakusai cabbage; there were centrally heated homes that were three times as large as typical Japanese homes and modern office buildings. This affluent lifestyle is the result of thoughtful investment of huge sums of compensation given by the state for the natural gas and oil exploration in this region. The Inuit invested the enormous funds in their endeavour to secure approval for their traditional bowhead whaling. The result was the approval of bowhead hunts in 1979 meeting of the IWC.

Meanwhile, the commercial whaling of Japan, Norway, Iceland, and other whaling nations was subjected to the 1982 moratorium based on the logic of "scientific uncertainty" which was staged by environmental groups. Bundled in this blanket moratorium was "small-type coastal whaling" in Japan which, in a form of very small business, had fulfilled local demand of four coastal communities. On small-type coastal whaling in Japanese waters, a group of international social scientists consisting of 14 anthropological experts from 6 countries has conducted detailed field research in all exhaustive aspects of the community-based whaling in those four coastal communities since 1988.

Their studies have produced 30 papers, which have been read by the Technical Committee of IWC. The conclusion drawn in these papers, in sum, is: "Japan's small-type coastal whaling, though having some commercial element, culturally constitutes the core of whaling communities, and as such is close to what the IWC recognizes as subsistence whaling. Therefore, it should be allowed to meet the local demand to the extent that the minke whale population is not endangered."

Each year since the moratorium on commercial whaling became effective, the Japanese government has continued to submit to the IWC a proposal seeking an interim relief allocation (IRA) of 50 minke whales as means with which to meet the need of coastal communities. IRA was the formula once used successfully by the U.S. in the 1970s to have IWC allow the bowhead whaling by Inuit villages while the Scientific Committee ruled that the bowhead population was endangered to the extent that it could not stand hunting at all. Despite this precedence, the IWC has tenaciously rejected, for eight consecutive years, Japan's modest request for an IRA of 50 minke whales per year.

Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Diversity

Let us now turn to a discussion of a one-sided view on culture: a reluctance to accept the particular culture of Japan while declaring that Western culture is universal. Some Japanese have gone as far as to label this view as cultural imperialism.

In 1990 Japan submitted to IWC a paper summarizing the results of a study it commissioned to an American sociologist who had done substantial work in the community, in response to a request by the delegates from antiwhaling nations that Japan should quantify its cultural needs.

The study examined cultural demand for whale meat specifically, for what cultural events it was consumed each year in four areas in a coastal small-type whaling town. The study revealed that all family members together consume whale meat on New Year's Day and the day of the Bon Festival.*5

Among the days characterized as cultural events, Bon was the period of the highest consumption. Moreover, 90% of the families studied had regularly consumed whale meat on ordinary (non-festive-event) days prior to the imposition of the moratorium.

When the results of the study were summarized in a table and submitted to the Working Group, comments such as the following were made, by representatives of anti-whaling nations. "This list of cultural events does not include wedding anniversaries. The Bon Festival does not exist in Western societies. Accordingly, the selection of cultural events and the consumption quantities for them are questionable." "Everyday consumption does not constitute culture. If that is culture, then the Western breakfast of ham and eggs will have to be called culture."

My response to that comment was: "I only celebrated my first wedding anniversary. Wedding anniversaries are not essential to an average Japanese like myself, much less for rural or coastal community residents. But during the Bon season, it is quite common for the ordinary people in Japan to visit their ancestral homes where all families enjoy congregation. It is similar to the time of Easter in your culture, but Easter is not generally recognized in our culture."

Furthermore, I said, "Everyday life is a very reflection of the culture of a people. Westerners have for many years had ham and eggs for breakfast because of the cultural background of utilizing livestock." The debate on culture in the IWC is conducted at this low level of understanding of what culture means. Setting that aside, let me now turn to my experience with the general attitude toward whales in Western societies.

In 1988, a commercial television station in London decided to air a free debate under the topic of "Save the Whales? Save the Earth?" in its all-night open-end programs called "After Dark." It might have been the British sense of fair play that required the Japanese views for balance, they asked Mr. C. W. Nicol, the author of "Harpoon," to appear on the show to speak for the Japanese position. Responding to Mr. Nicol's call, I flew to London to appear on the show with him.

Several distinguished persons appeared on the program, including Dr. Jim Lovelock, who coined the name Gaia for global environmental crisis; Heathcoat Williams, poet and author of 'The Whale Nation' enormously popular with young generation of the U.K.; Petra Kelly, then a German parliamentarian of the Green Party; Kieran Mulvaney, then a 17-year-old energetic anti-whaling activist (who later became the spokesman for Greenpeace); and Tony Ball who represented the British motor industry.

During the course of the program, I happened to remark on the traditional use of whale baleen plates that is an important part of the respect paid to all parts of the whales caught, using them without waste. I explained that the whale baleen has been used inside the extremely delicate mechanism for the movements of puppets' heads in the traditional Japanese theatrical art called 'bunraku.'*6 To this, poet Williams responded: "Using a whale product for a puppet show which Japanese call 'culture.' It's unforgivable. Japanese should use plastic." 'Bunraku,' one of the three most treasured traditional theatrical arts of Japan, along with Kabuki and Noh, apparently meant nothing to one whose life is dedicated to arts of the West. The philosophy that underlies such an opinion is a western-culture-centric judgment that whales are more valuable than another's cultural values.

Seven years after the telecast of "Save the Whales? Save the Earth?", however, Irish Minister for Culture and Tourism, Mr. Higgins, in his opening statement of the 47th annual meeting of the IWC in Dublin in 1995, remarked: "I believe it would be wrong and in the nature of cultural imperialism for Ireland to attempt to impose our cultural values on those nations whose populations have depended on the whale for generations." I sense in these words a dawn of changes in the worldwide current on the whaling issue.

Eating Whale Meat and the Food Problem

As the population of the world continues to grow, food shortages will become a major problem in the twenty-first century. According to UNFPA in 1995 the world human population is estimated to be 5.75 billion and annual growth of more than 86 million is estimated to the year 2015.

Many readers would dismiss the concept of whales as food resources, anti-whaling people will undoubtedly condemn even conceiving this idea. It is their belief that if the 'greedy' Japanese were again allowed to regard whales as major food resources, they would deplete all the whales in the world. What we seek, however, is small-scale and long-lasting sustainable whaling conducted under scientific management. More important is the principle of utilizing surplus marine resource in a manner that is ecologically-correct.

In addressing the problem of population against shortage of food supply, the problems of an unbalanced distribution of food, rather than its absolute quantities, will have to be resolved first. In other words, while there are regions where people are inundated with surplus food supply, there are others where people are starving. Also, a worldwide increase in the number of countries that rely on livestock as sources of food supply will necessitate increased production of agricultural products including grains which are needed for cattle feeds.

Moreover, one cannot dismiss potential environmental problems arising from expanding agricultural land for production of grains. Associated with this problem is deforestation required by the need to enlarge grazing land for livestock, and deterioration of soil quality by chemical fertilizers. This kind of development may result in damages to the local and indigenous inhabitants whose lives depend on the environment in which they live.

The decrease of the habitat, in global scale, of wild animals caused by deforestation, developments of livestock raising and expanded farming for grains will bring about a crisis in wildlife resources. In this view, sustained utilization of wildlife resources in their natural habitat is more rational than eating artificially raised livestock. Once we accept this view, it is possible for us to clear, at least partially, the first hurdle of the food shortage arising from the unbalanced distribution of food.

Artificial production of food aggravates the unbalanced distribution of food in the long run. For instance, agriculture in North America relies heavily on fossil fuels. For producing grains, farmers use 10 times as much energy as are generated by the yields.

In comparison, marine resources require much less energy; the conservation for sustainable use of marine resources, therefore, needs to be more seriously reviewed for their utilization to a greater extent in the future.

The data obtained on the 925 minke whales which Japanese small-type coastal whalers caught between 1984 and 1987 show that 2.1 kilocalories of fuel energy were consumed to produce every 1.0 kilocalorie of food energy. The table above shows fuel energy consumed for producing various marine resources in other parts of the world. This table clearly shows that coastal whaling is a very efficient way of producing edible meat, and that coastal whales are rational food resources that can be utilized without waste.

From the standpoint of the rational utilization of marine resources, not only whales but all types of marine resources should be thoroughly studied and managed in their proper places in the food chain. Whales eat, during their feeding season, the amount of prey species as much as 5% of their huge body weight.

Readers may care to calculate the level of prey consumption by various whale species whose weights ranging from 150 tons (blue whales) to 3-6 tons (minke whales). According to a study by an Icelandic researcher, the increased number of large whales in the coastal waters of Iceland since the cessation of whaling in the 1980s has resulted in the considerable amount of consumption of capelin, a prime export item of Iceland, as well as sardines and squid by whales amounting to 4.5 million tons per year, which is 8 to 10 times as large as the total national fish catch of Iceland. This has become a serious problem for Iceland which, like Japan, is an island nation with limited natural resources, where marine products are the mainstay of its economy. As seen in this case, that whales compete with humans for the same food resources needs be addressed seriously by scientists outside Iceland as well.

Japanese marine scientists who are members of the IWC Scientific Committee, Drs. F. Kasamatsu and S. Tanaka, studied feeding of the North Pacific minke whales*7 and found minkes are opportunistic feeders that take a variety of the prey species available to them in their habitat. The stomach contents of minke whales caught during the late 1970s show the change of the preys from mackerel to sardines. The yearly changes of stomach contents of minke whales off the Pacific coast of northern Japan before 1975 showed krills and sand lance (locals call this species Merodo) from March to June, but since 1976 sardines gradually increased as prey following its migration to the region. It is just one example of the feeding habits of minke whales which should not be dismissed as insignificant to other fisheries.

Bio-Diversity and Whaling

The concept of "bio-diversity" is the principle of global environmentalism. If we are to utilize nature's gifts and act responsible to the environment, we should avoid a situation in which we regard certain species as so special as to enshrine them as "a sacred cow" of the sea, thereby leading to an excessive consumption of other species. Moreover, we should realize that whaling which enables us to catch a targeted animal without by-catch is friendlier to the environment, easier to manage than other types of fishing which incidentally catch other marine life, many of which are not even wanted, and are more congruent with the principle of bio-diversity.

Using the knowledge acquired by Japanese research that the Antarctic minke whales segregate by period, by sea area, by sex and by age, it is possible to develop the means to predetermine the species, sex, and maturity of individual animals before catches. RMP, furthermore, is a positive measure to conserve stocks within the furthest extent of our present day scientific knowledge.

Whales as Common Resources

The species of whales on which scientific surveys have been conducted most rigorously is the Antarctic minke whale. For the development of the RMP, the knowledge accumulated in minke whale research has played a key role.

The overexploitation of whales practised up to the middle of the 20th century has taught mankind unmeasurably precious lessons. Mankind will never attempt to use whale resources merely for the purpose of obtaining oil, nor would we regard them as tantamount to fossil resources.

Japan has entered the phase of economic maturity, and its people have growing awareness of conservation. Many of us realize that survival of our nation depends on what we can do to the global community. There are no national borders in environmental problems, and their solution requires a global perspective. The world seems to have a biased impression that Japan aims to monopolize abundant resources in the high seas; those Japanese people who believe in sustainable use of marine food resources, in every possible way, should exert efforts to eradicate such a view.

Any utilization of resources holds potentials to render some effects to the environment particularly when wildlife resources are common assets. In order to avoid a tragedy and to make a sustained utilization of resources, those who utilize the resource should assume certain responsibilities. To that end, I suggest that nations who receive benefits from the resources should have, along with the right to utilize them, an obligation to ensure that the benefits accrue to the whole.

Let us assume that Japan or any other nations resumed hunting of minke whales in Antarctic waters by the application of RMP and under the international inspection and monitoring system. In this case, the benefits obtained from minke whales would have to be returned to the entire human race in one form or another.

My view is that those nations whose citizens utilize whales under the category of aboriginal/subsistence whaling should also bear the responsibility to contribute to the global community. Those nations whose tourism flourish with whale watching should also bear the responsibility for their use of whales. Stewardship with which to care for the ecosystem is their responsibility.

There could be a number of ways to do this. One way is to develop a regime within IWC to help furtherance of ecosystem research, with whales being at the top of the food web. Whatever the form we may choose, it will reveal to the rest of the world the role which every member nation in IWC is prepared to play in the twenty-first century for the global community in which respect for cultural diversity as well as bio-diversity will become the key issue for the world peace.

*1) Kansai Region consists of Osaka, Hyogo Prefecture and others, which receive 180/1000th of the total allocation distributed to 47 Prefectures around Japan including Tokyo where relatively small portion of 113/1000th is allocated.

*2) See photo of typical examples of condemnation in cynical cartoons "Nihon-zone: Strictly Scientific Whale Bar" The Japan Times: August 4, 1990 and "We love whales to death" : The Japan Times, May 18, 1991 and other press coverage.

*3) In 1992 outside the venue of the 44/IWC Annual Meeting in Glasgow, British parliamentarian Tony Banks was reported to have said, "If Norwegians and Japanese like to eat 'exotic' food like whale meat, they should eat each other." Asahi Shinbun (Evening): June 29, 1992.

*4) Rep. 33 Int. Whal. Commn.; p.25

*5) In Buddhism, the deceased members of the family are believed to return to their homes in Bon Festival Day. The family get together, in a similar manner to what Christians do for Easter.

*6) Developed in the 17th century, Bunraku stands now as one of the three most treasured classical theatrical arts of Japan along with Noh and Kabuki. Each puppet of about 1 meter tall is manipulated by three puppeteers wearing black robes with face covered with black veil. Accompanied by 'joururi' chant and shamisen strings, the puppets express every possible human emotions with eyes and mouth open and shut, eye-brow raised and set down. The master puppeteers are often awarded with Order of National Human Treasure for their artisity.

*7) Kasamatsu, F. and Tanaka, S. 1992. Annual changes in prey species of minke whales taken off Japan 1948-87. Nippon Suisan Gakkaishi, 58:637-651.