Japanese World-View on Whales and Whaling

(from "Whaling Issues and Japan's Whale Research", ICR, 1993)

Shigeko Misaki


My work as an interpreter for the Japanese delegation to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) began in the austral summer of 1977 when the Commission's Annual Meeting was held in Canberra, Australia.

Fifteen years have since passed, through which I shared hundreds of working days with the Japanese scientists, the Commissioners and the members of the delegation. Looking back at the job I performed, I have done less in way of language assistance than I helped in learning about the need for communication between peoples of different cultures. If all the world could live with one language, would there be less frustration? IWC may be a good place to provide an answer to this question; if one natural language should be chosen as the only one to use, those who were native to that language would undoubtedly gain better chance to win.

I have often wondered why the minority in the Commission are non-English speaking; perhaps the language is as much a form of reflection of the culture as its cause. The minority in the Commission being current commercial the whaling nations, I have felt a sense of urgency that their side of the story should be more openly heard. This was why I accepted the kind of offer by a good friend of mine at the University of Sydney giving me an opportunity to speak on the Japanese viewpoints on whaling at the department where she taught. The text presented here is a summary of what I attempted to explain in my speech at the university in August, 1992.

The views I have mentioned in the paper, including my interpretations of the quoted sentences, are solely of my own. If any of the interpretations fail to reflect the original intention of the writer, the fault lies with my inability to properly understand the quoted statements.

Different Perception of Whales by Different People

The notion of the ocean always brings home to us the sense of nostalgia, vast expanse, strength, beauty and myriad wonders. So it is no wonder that the whale, the greatest living creature on earth, living in the ocean, is perceived as a very special animal. As whales have no national borders, they migrate freely across and through the waters of national jurisdiction, hence different people have different views about the whales.

The world seems split into three different opinions about the utilisation of whales. One opinion is that whales should not be commercially harvested because utilisation would inevitably lead to depletion of the whale population. Another opinion is that whale science has developed to the level by which some whale stocks can be safely managed for sustainable harvesting without harm to the whale population, and therefore some catches should be allowed.

There is yet another opinion which seems to be gaining power with the animal rights believers: That is regardless of reliability of the science to safely manage the whale population, it is unethical or immoral to kill whales. And of course, there are mixtures of these three opinions.

The general perception of whales by the Japanese people is that whales are part of the marine food resources. According to the information I obtained from the Food Agency, Japan, the per capita consumption of meat per year of the Japanese in 1991 was 28.9 kg while that of wish was 36 kg. In comparison, the per capita consumption of meat by the citizens of the United States per year is as much as 120 kg while that of fish is only 8.2 kg.

There are countries like Norway, Denmark, U.S.S.R., Iceland and Japan where whale meat is consumed as food, and where the consumption of marine food resources exceed the consumption of land animal meat. I might add that Japan and Iceland are two countries with the longest life expectancy of the nationals. It may be possible to interpret these figures that life expectancy of the people living on a balanced diet with the marine food resources tend to enjoy longer life.

Pros and Cons over Resumption of Whaling

I have with me a page of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Japanese national daily paper selling over 8 million copies every day. This is a column dated 18th July, 1992. It is a page for readers forum titled, "Debate Corner", to which the public is invited to write on the proposed topic given by the editors with the allowance of one week. The editors count the number of pros and cons on the subject, and publish two or three representative letters on either side.

The topic for Debate Corner on 18th July was "Resumption of Commercial Whaling". 68 letters were received, of which 48 were for the resumption of whaling and 20 were against. The editors gave the verdict that pro-whaling won over anti-whaling by 7 against 3. This is not a national census; it is regarded as a light-hearted column where readers can freely express their views. I have noted with interest one letter published here. It is a letter from a ten year old Canadian boy from Ottawa named Jonathan Goodman. His letter is supporting the resumption of whaling.

Jonathan's letter in his simple words tells us a lot of things. It reads as follows. 'In the area where I live, whales are a symbol of the environment. But it is important that in other areas whales are precious food for humans. In Europe and North America, the "Save the Whales" campaign is a part of the environmental movement. But Inuit people living in the Arctic and in Alaska have been catching whales over many thousands of years. Similarly, there is a tradition of whaling in Japan. I have been to a Japanese whaling town. Whaling is very important to the townspeople there because it is their traditional culture. If whales are not going extinct, I think it would be fair to recognize the right of these people to catch whales. The world would be a better place to live in, if everybody understands different cultures and accepts them.'

It would be unfair not to leave a letter from the other side unquoted, opposing the resumption of whaling. A letter from Minoru Shiramizu age 71 from Chiba is presented as anti-whaling. It reads, 'When I was a child, my family was running a fish shop. I never stopped loving whalemeat sashimi since then. Whalemeat is delicious with ginger soy source. Many years have passed since commercial whaling was banned. IWC this year again vetoed resumption of whaling. The taste of whale meat is farther away from our family table. The report of the scientific research tells us that whale population is steadily growing. Some whaling countries are walking out of IWC, because they are against IWC decisions. But we should be more patient, because of the current world situation. Japan is now the biggest donor of monetary aid to foreign countries, but nobody seems to appreciate it. Maybe it is because we Japanese are regarded insincere. So, I think it would be unwise now to arouse world opinion up against Japan on the whaling issue. Personally, I very much miss the taste of whalemeat.'

Mr. Shiramizu's letter is typical of the sentiment of some Japanese of the older generations about whaling. In contrast, Jonathan's letter is more logical and mature. I would firstly take advantage of Jonathan's letter making it a guide for my argument. Jonathan has warned of the danger of ethnocentrism, which is making the whaling issue unnecessarily complicated. Then, later, use Mr. Shiramizu's letter to analyze the Japanese sentiment about whalemeat and whaling.

Jonathan Goodman has said in his letter that whales are an environmental symbol in the area where he lives. He lives in Ottawa, Canada. What he is saying is that whales are perceived as the symbol of environment in the North America and Europe, and I would think in many other countries in the West.

Are All Whales Endangered?

Why are the whales often referred to as the symbol of the "Endangered Earth"? Let me examine this subject first.

Comparison is made of the population levels of the present and the original period. I would recognize some people's rationale for making the endangered whales the symbol, except in the case of sperm whales, the status of which is 'endangered' in spite of its high population level.

Some of the whale populations in this table show that they are endangered, and may deserve to be idolised as symbols of the endangered species. These are blue whales, some stocks of fin whales, Bowhead whales, right whales and humpback whales.

Under a more advanced management system to be adopted by IWC with which to implement the Revised Management Procedure (RMP), only the stocks which are known to be able to sustain harvesting, such as minke whales, would be the subject of whaling activities. In other words, it would be impossible to start whaling on any of the endangered whale stocks.

The protection of whales thus far has been designed by IWC without consideration for interactions with other marine species. However, there are people like the Icelanders who regard some whale species in their waters as depleters of their precious fish resources such as capelin and herring. Iceland depends more than 80 % of their foreign trade on fish and fish products. Capelin is their major export item. They estimate tens of thousands of tons of capelin are eaten daily by fin whales and minke whales in their waters. Whales have to eat 3 - 4 % of their body weight per day in summer.

This means a fin whale weighing 50 tons eat 1.5 to 2 tons of capelin per day. Thousands of minke whales each weighing 8 tons eating 240 kg of precious fish resource every day can be a threat to the fishermen. I hardly find it fair to ask Icelanders to idolize whales as a symbol of the environment. Similar concepts exist among the coastal whalers in Japan, where minke whales protected under the moratorium are feeding on tons of meroudo, a krill-like species distributed in the northern coastal waters.

Talking about inter-specific relations, many speculations have been made as to the remarkable propagation of the Antarctic minke whales in the latter half of this century. This stock of minke whales had been left untouched during the time of active Antarctic whaling by many nations for larger whale species. It is likely that due to the depletion of larger baleen whale species such as blue and fin in the first half of the century, more abundant food and space were made available to the smaller and more productive species such as minke whales, crabeater seals and penguins, and thereby prompted their increase. Japanese research has revealed that the peak age in the age pyramid of the population of the minke whales in the Antarctic, obtained by random sampling, is around ages 1 to 2 suggesting the further growth of this population. The vigorous increase of the more productive minkes could be the reason for delay in the recovery of the larger baleen whales.

The Myth That All Whales Possess High Intelligence

Some people say that whales have large brains and assume that they possess high intelligence. They believe that simple brain mass is a proof of their high intelligence and sufficient reason for being a symbol. However, Dr. Kamiya of Tsukuba University, Japan says that brains should be evaluated in relation to the body weight. Simple brains mass is not an indicator of the quality of its function.

This table shows the ratio of brain weight against body weight of various animals. Looking at this table, mouse shows the highest ratio, superior to humans. But can you say that mouse is more intelligent than us?

Some people say that whales show high levels of social solidarity and organisation. But researchers studying other living creatures such as monkeys, wolves, bees, and ants say that they show incredible social order and organisation superior to those of the whales. Even some fish species show orderly behavior, but nobody claims that they are intelligent.

I accept that idolisation is a matter of individual preference. So in the minds of the majority of the Japanese people, whales are not so much a symbol of intelligence as they are symbol of marine food resources.

Many people seem to believe that simple brain mass is the indicator of a high degree of intelligence. However, some scientists believe that simple mass cannot be an index to the level of intelligence and the quality of brain function. The first step to study this subject is to look at the brain mass in relation to the body weight, then compare with other species. But even then, there are myriads of different factors to determine the brain function. Here, I would quote the words of Dr. Margaret Klinowska, researcher in Mammalian studies, Cambridge University, and a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group. She is also a long-standing member of the IWC Scientific Committee.

Dr. Klinowska says, "In most species of cetacean, the brain is neither very large nor especially complex. The blue whale, for example, has a very small brain compared with the rest of its body. The brain of a blue whale may be up to six times larger than that of a human, but as the animal is 15 times longer and about 750 times heavier, it is really not very well endowed with brains" "In many respects, the anatomy of the cetacean brain is actually quite primitive. It retains all the structure found in primitive mammals, such as hedgehogs and bats. It shows none of the structural differences from area to area typical of advanced brains like those of primates."

Is Intelligence the Only Gauge for Value Judgement?

I would like to refer to just another aspect of the concept of whales' intelligence. I have had the experience of accompanying three U.S. Congressional Staff on a visit to a small coastal whaling town called Ayukawa to observe the situation affected by the whaling moratorium. In this town, the Americans met with small-type whalers in their humble homes and were than taken to a Buddhist temple where the priest, the Reverend Kawamura, showed them "Kako-cho" (the registry of the diseased people) in which whales caught by the small-type whalers are listed along with the humans.

The Reverend Kawamura explained that in Buddhism, the whales are but one form of living creature passing through one phase of transmigration of the soul. The whales which have served the livelihood of the townspeople so well are listed there in KAKOCHO, so that they might live in the next phase of life in a higher form such as a human.

At that meeting with the priest, one of the Americans asked if the high intelligence of whales means anything in Buddhism. The Reverence Kawamura answered, "Intelligence has little to do with the basic dignity of a living form. In Buddhism, we regard all living things with equal dignity. Even if a person is mentally retarded in this life, his basic dignity is not flawed. I know some people are less intelligent than others, but all are equal in their basic dignity."

The American could not refute the Rev. Kawamura, and later he confided to me that his horizon was broadened by the meeting with the priest. He said his assessment of people or animals used to be based on the level of their intelligence, but that meeting with the priest helped him realize that there are other approaches to such value judgements.

Brief History of Whaling and the IWC

I have given my analysis of the two points raised by Jonathan in his letter to the Yomiuri Shimbun. The first point was that whales are the symbol of the environment. The second point was whether the whale species are endangered.

Now, I would look at the letter from the 71 year old Japanese gentleman named Shiramizu. He is referring to the IWC, and suggests Japan should not act against IWC decisions, because he thinks the Japanese are regarded as insincere in the area of foreign relations.

Why, then, has Japan been taking an active role as a member of IWC? Since Japan is in a minority in that forum and thereby her views are almost always overruled at the adoption of important decisions, it hardly seem sensible for her to remain in the IWC. Japan always upholds the IWC rules once decisions have been made, yet Japan is perceived as a villain by the Western public. How has this absurd situation ever been created? For an objective evaluation of the current situation, we need to review the history of whaling and IWC in relation to the Japanese position.

Whaling in earlier centuries

We have heard that many whale species are depleted. Indeed, mankind has driven many whale populations to depletion. The Western nations, headed by the United States, U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, and many others conducted pelagic whaling in the 18th century through to the early 1960s. The whales were valuable resources providing oil and baleen plates. In the years before the American Civil War, the amount of sperm whale oil that the Great Britain imported from the New Continent exceeded 5,000 tons a year. The City of London paid as much as 300 thousand pounds every year for the whale oil used to light up the night life of Londoners. Whale baleen plates were also very valuable, because they were used in variety of ways such as women's corsets and frames for skirts.

While the Western nations were conducting pelagic whaling in the 18th century (*1), the traditional coastal whaling in Japan was facing a decline in the catches of whales that migrate into the waters along its shores. Several factors can be blamed for the decline of Japanese coastal whaling in the late eighteenth century (*1): one of them was the depletion of the whale resources by the rampant pelagic whaling off Kinkazan in the north-west of Honshu on the Pacific coast by the Yankee Whalers. The more advanced form of whaling employed by the American whalers using steam boats was obviously far more efficient. They were able to catch hundreds of whales offshore, leaving few to the traditional whaling method employed by the Japanese.

The earliest whaling in Japan dates back to the Jomon period (about 2000 B.C.), and in the 11th century Ainus in Hokkaido utilised whales. Until the end of sixteenth century, the Japanese used whales that were stranded on the beaches. Many cases of conflicts and fights between villages over stranded whales have been reported, and detailed regulations were laid down regarding the rights to dispose of the whale, the distribution of the catch, and the payment of taxes.

In the Tokugawa period (1603 - 1868) whaling was an early form of manufacture (industry), in which a large number of personnel with professional skills were employed to perform different tasks involved in the whaling, such as boat building, net making, whale sighting, hunting, flensing, the distribution of whale products and so forth and so on. This followed the emergence of the 'active' type of whaling. This used harpoons in the drive method using net and personnel on a large number of small boasts chasing the whale into a bay. This was closed with the net and a skilled whaler with a harpoon would strike the whale.

In Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, more complex net whaling was developed in 1675, using several layers of nets. The main target species were right whales and gray whales. This type of whaling method spread widely along the coastal areas of Japan and continued to be practiced until the 20th century when the Norwegian method was adopted.

Whales and whaling created a landmark in Japanese history in 1853 when the United States Naval fleet under the command of Commodore Perry sailed into the Bay of Edo (now known as Tokyo) to request Japan to cease its isolation policy, that had lasted for three hundred years and start trade with the United States. This fleet had another role than diplomacy; it was acting as the guard for the Yankee whalers in the West North Pacific, and the letter from President Fillmore carried by Commodore Perry in part demanded the opening of Japanese ports to supply log for fuel and water to the whaling vessels.

The most important thing to remember about the difference between the whaling by the West and that by Japan is that Western whaling was for oil and baleen plates and the Japanese whaling was, and always has been, for whalemeat for human consumption. I identify this as the most basic difference between the whaling by the West and the whaling by Japan.

Modern pelagic whaling and the Japanese

Modern pelagic whaling had its heyday in the Antarctic before and after the World War II. Many of the whaling crew of the Japanese Antarctic fleets were recruited from the traditional coastal whaling communities; the Japanese whalers keep their skills as their family trade through generations, although their whaling grounds shift from time to time following the shift of whale density.

Modern pelagic whaling was a tragedy for many of the large whale species. In this century in the Antarctic, the blue whale, the largest mammal on earth, was almost wiped out: the countries to be blamed for the depletion of the blue whale are Norway that took 82,000, followed by Great Britain that took 70,000 and Japan 25,000. The blue whale became completely protected in all areas in 1964. It is no use to accuse one nation or another now, but we should all search our souls never to repeat this tragedy again.

So there is a strong need for scientific management of the whales and the recovery of these great whales should be carefully monitored.

Japanese Antarctic whaling after the World War II

Antarctic whaling by Japan after the World War II was reopened by permit from the Supreme Commander of the Allied Occupational Forces, General Douglas MacArthur. When Japan lost the war, the nation was struck with poverty and food shortage. Many thousands were predicted to die of starvation and malnutrition. In 1946, the General Headquarters under the command of MacArthur decided to allow the Japanese to reopen Antarctic whaling to help the Japanese to obtain animal protein. Having lost the war, no Japanese during the occupation was allowed to travel overseas. In this case, however, a special permit was issued by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces to the crew of the whaling fleet. Stranded tankers were salvaged from offshore areas and reconstructed into whaling factory ships, some using old naval submarine engines. In November 1946, two fleets departed from the port of Nagasaki with the United States Military Band playing the farewell music. Here once again, the Japanese Antarctic whaling began under the influence of the U.S.

In the early days of modern whaling before World War II, whaling was regulated by agreements entered into by the major whaling nations, such as Great Britain and Norway. In 1930, the International Bureau of Whaling Statistics was established in Sandefjord, Norway, to which all the catches in the Antarctic were reported. Antarctic whaling was interrupted during the World War II. Towards the end of the war in 1944, the seven whaling nations of those days, Great Britain, Norway, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, met in London to plan regulated whaling in order to prepare for the demand for oil foreseen for the post-war period.

Whaling in those days was conducted in a way referred to as the Olympic method, and in which the unit called BWU (blue whale unit) was used to calculate the number of whales. One BWU was equated to at least 110 barrels of oil. This method is blamed as a cause for the depletion of major large whale species in the Antarctic, since the different whale species were calculated by the BWU, for example, applying one BWU to the smaller species such as fin whales; 2 fin whales were equated to 1 BWU; in the same way, 2.5 humpback whales, and 5 or 6 sei whales were counted as 1 BWU. The Olympic method was operated in this way: first, the annual predicted catch was announced using the BWU, then the season would start with all the whaling fleets going on catching any available whale species until the International Bureau of Statistics accumulating the catch reports envisaged that the ceiling of the predicted catches for that season was almost reached, it then notified the whaling nations to stop whaling in one week.

The Olympic Method using BWU was replaced in the mid-1970s by the more scientific New Management Procedure (NMP) with which whales were managed on stock-by-stock basis. Under the NMP, almost all the large whale stocks around the world were given complete protection. However, even this NMP was regarded ineffective by the Commission since whaling continued on some abundant stocks such as minke whales. A moratorium for all commercial whaling was adopted by the IWC in 1982, although in the same year its own Scientific Committee recommended the catches of some sustainable stocks, including the minke whales in the Antarctic and in the North Pacific.

Organisation of the IWC and Objectives of the Convention

In 1946, fifteen whaling nations met in Washington, D.C. to agree on the new whaling convention now known as the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). The Convention took two years to ratify and in 1948, two years after the Washington meeting, an international agency was established to carry out the provisions of the ICRW. This agency is the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The Preamble of the ICRW embodies the objectives of this Convention. In the Preamble, three principal objectives are expressed.

  1. To safeguard for future generations the great natural resource represented by the whale stocks.

  2. Increases of whale stocks resulting from proper regulation would permit increases in the number of whales which may be captured without endangering these natural resources.

  3. The convention provides for proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.
These were forward-looking objectives in 1946. However, because the signatory nations were almost all whaling nations, the interest of the whaling industry outweighed conservation of whale stocks over the ensuing decade. Then after 1972, following the United Nations Conference on Environment in Stockholm, the balance shifted to the other side, with non-whaling nations out-numbered by far the whaling nations. The same imbalance still continues at the IWC at the present time, and there are only six whaling nations against thirty non-whaling nations in the IWC. I say six, because I count the United States, Russia, Denmark and St. Vincent and the Grenadines with aboriginal and subsistence whaling. Normally only Japan and Norway are counted as the whaling nations in the IWC.

It is important to note that the ICRW recognizes whales as "natural resources" and not as a symbol of the environment. The Japanese position in the IWC is in keeping with the objectives of the Convention, in that whales are resources and not a symbol so long as the Convention remains unrevised.

The IWC was established in 1948 with its organisation formulated in the following way. The IWC consists of four main organs;

The first is the Commission, where each member nation sends delegation led by one Commissioner with one vote. The Commission meets once every year at its Annual Meeting. The principal task of the Commission is to install, amend or cancel the regulatory measures for whaling in what is called "Schedule" to the Convention. Some rules are adopted by consensus but when this is difficult to achieve, voting takes place. To amend any part of the Schedule, voting must achieve a three-quarters majority.

The second is the Scientific Committee. It consists of scientists sent by the member nations that wish to participate in the scientific discussions. It also allows invited participants who are not representatives of any nations, but scientific experts whose contributions to the scientific discussions are assessed significant. Scientists representing other international organizations also attend the Scientific Committee. The Scientific Committee is responsible for making scientific recommendations to the Commission concerning the management of the whale resources. The Convention clearly states that management should be based on the best scientific advice from the Scientific Committee.

The third is the Technical Committee: this is rather like a miniature of the Commission in its composition of the members. It deals with technical aspects of the Commission's agenda. In Technical Committee, decisions by vote require a simple majority. However, amendment to the Schedule is only finalised by the Commission.

The fourth is the Finance and Administration Committee. It deals with the financial housekeeping.

If the organisation of the IWC is built on well-balanced interests represented by the both whaling and non-whaling nations, the objectives of the Whaling Convention would be upheld with due respect. However, IWC has rarely seen its composition well-balanced. In the early years of its establishment it was heavily balanced towards the interests of the whaling nations, then since 1972 following the United Nations Stockholm Conference on Environment it has been dominated by the interests of the non-whaling nations advocating across-the-board protection of all whale species in spite of the adoption of the New Management Procedure with which whales were to be managed on a stock-by-stock basis.

The "Like-Minded Group" within the IWC

The majority of the member nations of IWC are anti-whaling, and they consult with each other in the group named the 'Like-Minded Nations'. Most of the decisions to be made by the IWC are discussed and predetermined by this group in advance of the formal proceedings in the Commission. The minority in the IWC such as Japan, Norway and others are not the part of this group, and so their views cannot be respected in decision making at the IWC, which often takes place as a matter of reconfirmation performed by the members of the Like-Minded group. The only whaling nation that participate in this group, and as a core member, is the United States, whose aboriginal/subsistence whaling has been exempted from the moratorium.

The IWC and the NGOs

Although the IWC is an inter-governmental organisation, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can participate in it as observers when approval is given by the Secretariat according to relatively simple regulations. Most of the NGO observers are believed to be genuinely concerned about the conservation. Their role in the Commission seems to be to observe the proceedings at the Commission and check the actions taken by the Commissioners, so as to be able to report back to their organisations about the decisions and the decision-making process that have taken place in the IWC.

Of 60 NGOs that were approved to attend the IWC Annual Meeting in Glasgow in 1992, more than 50 were anti-whaling. It is not difficult to imagine that any Commissioner whose nation's policy is anti-whaling would be inclined to act in favour of the politically influential NGO observers.

While the press is not permitted to sit in the Commission meetings, a greater part of the information to the Western media seems to be based on the subjectivity of the anti-whaling observers. As a consequence of the media reports, Western public opinion seems to be formulated in a direction unsympathetic to the minority views. In order to achieve a fair balance of the reporting, and subsequent public opinion, it is desirable that representation of the NGOs in the IWC should be more fairly balanced.

Why does Japan still want to remain in the IWC?

Being slighted by the like-minded group in IWC, although having made a major contribution to the organisation's scientific programs, why does Japan still want to remain in the Commission? Japan's answer would be that it is obliged to remain for the pursuit of the objectivities of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW).

Is Japan Regarded Insincere?

The letter from Mr. Shiramizu to the Yomiuri Shimbun pointed out that in spite of the financial aid that Japan gives to the world, nobody appreciates it, "because Japan is regarded as insincere".

This seems true in the case of the IWC. Total income through contributions from the member nations of IWC in 1991 was 804,570 pounds Sterling, of which Japan and the United States paid an equal amount of 55,701 each. However, this was not all that Japan paid. Since 1978, the IWC has been surveying the population of the Southern Hemisphere minke whales under the program called IDCR (International Decade of Cetacean Research). The first decade has been completed, and it is now in the second decade. This program has been planned and conducted by the Scientific Committee and has been participated in by scientists from more than eight nations. Under this program, two to three vessels are chartered with the crew, including those with the sighting skills which are essential for the surveys. Every year since 1978 sighting surveys have been conducted over four months in the Antarctic Ocean under this program of international collaboration. The data collected from this survey are one of the greatest scientific assets of the IWC. Japan has been providing chartered vessels with all the logistics requirements every year for the IWC/IDCR. Since 1978, this contribution every year in monetary terms has amounted to as much as 1.8 million pounds per year. You may compare this amount with the total annual income of the organisation, which, for instance, in 1991 was only 804,570 pounds.

The Moratorium for All Commercial Whaling

In 1982 the IWC voted to adopt a moratorium for all commercial whaling. At that time the IWC Scientific Committee had recommended to the Commission the catch quota for Antarctic minke whales to be within the range of 1 - 4 % of replacement yield, which in terms of the number of whales, 2,467 to 9,867. Most members of the Scientific Committee considered a moratorium for protection of Antarctic minke whales unnecessary.

While adopting the lower bound of the range, which is 2,467, recommended by the Scientific Committee for catch limit, the Commission adopted the moratorium for all commercial whaling, including that for the abundant Southern Hemisphere minke whales.

How this decision was viewed by whale management experts can be summarised in the statement by Dr. John Gulland, representing the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at the IWC in that year. Referring to the case of Antarctic minke whales, he stated:

"The continuation of commercial whaling can also be threatened by management measures that are too restrictive. The most extreme example is a moratorium on all whaling. This is a completely unselective measure. Given the differing status of the various stocks, and the fact that virtually all those species or stocks that are seriously depleted are already receiving complete protection, these seems to be no scientific justification for a global moratorium. A justification for a complete cessation of whaling can be put forward on aesthetic or moral grounds, but these seem outside the terms of reference of the Commission..." (my emphasis added)

Dr. Willian Aron, former Commissioner for the United States and marine biologist, Director of the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the Department of Commerce, the United States Government, has published his views in the journal of "Coastal Management". In it Dr. Aron describes the background of the moratorium decision as follows:

"The United Nations Stockholm Conference on the Environment (1972) marked a turning point in marine mammal conservation activities..." "The plight of the great whales became the symbol of the havoc inflicted on natural systems by uncaring man. Whales are an apt symbol. From the Bible to Pinnochio and Moby Dick, a mystique has evolved so that even those who have never seen a whale have an interest in them..."

Dr. Aron continues in his paper to account for the situation behind the IWC moratorium decision, "At the 1974 sessions of the IWC, an Australian proposal, eventually called the New Management Procedure (NMP), was implemented to assure that whale population below a designated critical level could not be exploited and that those populations that were sufficiently large could be harvested only at levels well below their replacement yields (IWC, 1977). Even in the face of this agreement, worldwide concern for whales and legitimate uncertainties about the NMP, led the IWC to ban all commercial whaling at their 34th annual meeting".

Brief Background of Japanese Research on Antarctic Minke Whales

The "legitimate uncertainties" that Dr. Aron pointed out were those stemming from the bias in the data collected from commercial whaling. As commercial operations would take whales of large size for larger yield, the data had a bias towards the larger and older minke whales, so that such data were regarded as uncertain for use in population assessments. After the implementation of the moratorium in 1987, Japan launched the National Scientific Research Program in the Antarctic to obtain bias-free data from random sampling.

There have been appalling misapprehensions by the Western public about the credibility of Japanese research. I would have to spend hours to defend the case, so today within a limited time given to me, I would only point out two things.

  1. Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) provides for any member government to issue research permits to kill, take, and treat whales for scientific research purposes. It also provides that whales taken under scientific permit shall so far as practicable be processed and the proceeds shall be dealt with in accordance with directions issued by the Government.

  2. The Report of the Scientific Committee this year reads as follows concerning the Japanese Research:

"Smith (the head of the U.S. scientific delegation) noted with appreciation the extensive effort and analysis that had been put into the program. He particularly welcomed the change in emphasis to the question of average mortality and increase in sighting effort..." "He suggested that priority should be given to finding ways to improve the sampling procedure so that the data may enable us to learn more on seasonal and annual variability in minke whale distribution and segregation." "Cook (from IUCN and the author of the adopted Revised Management Procedure) noted that much of the material presented was of great interest, particularly sighting data, which provided information on yearly variability in distribution..." (IWC/44/SC/p. 32)

With these constructive comments by the members of the IWC Scientific Committee, the Commissioners including Japan adopted a resolution recommending Japan to "continue to reconsider and improve the proposed research for 1992/93.

Some Views about Marine Mammal Protection

Let me again go back to Dr. Aron' paper. He continues, "Virtually all countries in the world oppose the harvesting of animals if such harvesting threatens the survival of the species involved. If a harvesting regime threatens a species or population with extinction, the current world ethic demands that such activities cease. The problem comes, however, when populations are sufficiently abundant to permit their harvest. For example, the Japanese have sought to harvest fewer than 500 male sperm whales from a Western Pacific Population conservatively estimated to contain about 61,000 animals age 11 years or older.

It is doubtful that a harvest of this level would have a significant biological impact..."

"This is all clearly understood by Japan..." "Their anger is exacerbated by the strong support of the United States and other non-whaling countries for the rights of aboriginal people to continue whaling for stocks, which in some cases are biologically endangered. Some Japanese have inferred that the failure of their small coastal whaling villages to win the right to continue whaling is based upon some degree of racial prejudice."

After describing the success of the U.S. citizen's support for marine mammal protection, especially whales, he continues to say, "The 'tragedy' is not the success but some of the consequences of that success. The dilemma is posed by the underlying and continuing motivation of citizen concern. If the concern is based largely on the need to correct abuses of the past and restore marine mammal populations to former abundance levels, continuing the current sweeping policy of virtually total protection for all species is no longer required. If, however, the concern for marine mammals is essentially based on the ethics or morality of their harvest, we probably should continue our current courses. In doing so we must clearly recognize that there is a difference in imposing a moral or ethical standard on U.S. citizens versus imposing such standards on the international community." (my emphasis added)

Development of the Revised Management Procedure by the IWC Scientific Committee

The moratorium adopted by the IWC in 1982, had a contingent clause that said, "This provision will be kept under review, based upon the best scientific advice, and by 1990 at the latest the Commission will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the effects of this decision on whale stocks and consider modification of this provision and the establishment of other catch limits."

During the moratorium the Scientific Committee has undertaken population assessment of the stocks about which sufficient information and data were available. Among those thoroughly examined are such stock as Southern Hemisphere minke whales, North Pacific minke whales, North Atlantic minke whales, North Atlantic fin whales and North Pacific gray whales, commonly known as the Californian Gray.

The case of the Californian Gray shows that protection since 1946 has been successful and the stock is increasing at the rate of 3.2 % annually. The stock is now increased above its original level of around 20,000. The case of the Californian Gray gives an useful example of how resources can be managed to serve the purpose of non-consumptive use as well as consumptive use. Few people outside the IWC would realise that the recovery under protection was attained by the partial protection of the stock. The Russian in the Chukchi shores in the far North Pacific have continued to catch about 180 animals of this stock every year, and by the United States 316 animals were caught under the scientific permit up to 1969. In spite of these catches, the California Gray showed good recovery offering American tourists their friendly whale-watching opportunities. The case of the California Gray gives a good example of sustainable development simultaneously achieved in both non-consumptive and consumptive utilisation.

During the moratorium a working group of mathematical experts was also organised to develop a "Revised Management Procedure" (RMP).

The objectives of the RMP were three conflicting aims, 1) prevention of irreparable over-use of the stocks; 2) stability of catches; 3) maintaining the highest continuous catch or the maximum long-term yield. The RMP in simple term is a computer program, which has built-in fail-safe mechanisms designed to maintain the optimum level of the stock. Many thousands of computer simulation trials were run to test the reliability of the RMP, and finally after clearing the incredibly high hurdles imposed by the Commission, the Scientific Committee presented to the IWC the complete format of RMP that assumes protection of the whale stocks and very modest catches.

The time previously set for the review of the moratorium was 1990, and the development of RMP is now complete in 1992. The Commission, however, decided to require the addition of several administrative schemes for the implementation of the RMP, and decided that until all these requirements are entered into the Schedule in legal language, no commercial whaling would be allowed.

Norway, which had lodged an objection to the moratorium decision in accordance with Article V-3 of the ICRW, which exempts that Government from the moratorium, now declared that they could no longer wait for the IWC to allow resumption of commercial whaling. Iceland has already withdrawn from the IWC. And now Japan is singled out as the only member nation that obeys the IWC decision, although grudgingly.

The Japanese and 'GAIATSU', Pressure from the International Community

Mr. Shiramizu in his letter to the Yomiuri Shimbun says that although he misses the taste of whale meat, he thinks that "We should be patient in consideration of the world opinion against resumption of commercial whaling." This is a typical way of thinking among older Japanese people in many areas of decision making. In this way of thinking, the Japanese would feel obliged, although grudgingly, to take the course that seems popular with the West.

Such invisible pressure from the international community is called in Japanese 'GAIATSU'. Surely Mr. Shiramizu alone is not to be blamed for this tendency, since this kind of complex feeling is a reflection of the Japanese fear of losing popularity in the international community. When 'GAIATSU' starts to linger in the minds of the Japanese, even if it is often physically non-existent, the Japanese tend to lose their rationale and succumb to the pressure.

The Japanese behaviour under 'GAIATSU' marks a stark contrast with the American approach to the problem. American domestic law supersedes international agreement such as ICRW. I refer to the incident in particular that occurred in 1982, and in 1984 when Japan lodged objection to the moratorium in accordance with Article V-3 of the ICRW, the same manner in which Norway and Russia lodged their objections.

The U.S. threatened Japan that unless Japan withdrew her objection from the IWC, it would impose economic sanction by forbidding Japanese fishing rights within the U.S. 200 mile zones that were legally acquired by paying fees to the U.S. This was like holding hostage and demanding ransom from Japan. Japan, after many bilateral negotiations with the United States, conceded to the U.S. demands. Then what happened was that the United States, in effect, did impose economic sanctions on Japan after all by forbidding the fishing rights of the Japanese fisherman completely two years after Japan succumbed to the American threats.

Japanese fear of GAIATSU in the whaling issue is obvious. In considering a case for Japan walking out of the IWC to reopen commercial whaling now, there is great fear on the part of the Japanese public of possible U.S. sanctions by way of a boycott of Japanese products sold in the United States. This would be legitimate within the extent of U.S. domestic statute, the Pelly Amendment, although it is most likely to infringe upon the international rules under the GATT, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

It is even more frustrating to note in this connection that Japan imports approximately ten times as much fish and fish products from the U.S. as the U.S. imports them from Japan. (In terms of US dollars 2.3 billion is exported from the United States to Japan as compared to 2.5 million from Japan to the U.S.) But Japan does not press hard to legislate any counter measure against the Pelly Amendment. It seems to many Westerners that Japan is afraid of any possible linkage by the U.S. of the whaling issue with other areas of trade. In the minds of the Japanese, however, it is not only because of the risk to the trade, but it is because of the Japanese philosophy in which 'harmony' supersedes confrontation.

How long Japan would wait for the renewal of commercial whaling is an intriguing question. Japan, under 'GAIATSU', pressure from international community, particularly from the United States, has demonstrated major changes in its history. It all started with Commodore Perry leading the fleet on the guard for the American whalers on the Japan Ground off our shores, coming to demand the termination of 300 years of isolation policy in 1853.

With scientific rationale supporting the partial lifting of the moratorium for commercial whaling now, (particularly so for the plentiful Antarctic minke whales whose propagation could well be hindrance to the recovery of larger baleen whale species such as blue whales) would Japan still say 'Yes' to 'GAIATSU', or would it stand firm and say 'No'? Some Japanese believe that the latter choice might jeopardise Japan's reputation in the world, but the reputation has already been damaged badly enough for Japan so far as the whaling issue is concerned. Isn't it the time now for Japan to stop being unilaterally condemned as a villain and to speak out making its case for the scientific justification of sustainable utilisation of the plentiful of minke whales? Would Japan rise above the fear of 'GAIATSU' and lead the way to show the world that science wins over the emotional idolisation of the whales as the symbol of the environment?

Admitting that Japan is an affluent nation which receives more than enough food supplies, some argue that whalemeat is no longer a necessary to the nation-wide Japanese diet. This could be a convincing argument, if all communities in other affluent nations give up their traditional diets. Some local communities in the United States are allowed to continue hunting Bowhead whales not because their survival is dependent on the whalemeat, but more because of their social and cultural need. The small-type whaling communities on the Japanese coastal area have similar social and cultural needs for minke whalemeat.

In my opinion, a nightmare for both mankind and whales would be the case in which Japan walked out of the IWC, giving up all her interests in whaling. In that case, the IWC would lose its reason for existence while a number of other nations outside of the IWC could start to conduct unregulated whaling in order to sell the whalemeat to the world's greatest market, Japan. This would be a tragedy not only for the IWC, but for the great natural resources represented by the whale stocks.

As the population of Antarctic minke whales is scientifically proved sufficient to sustain small catches by the application of the Revised Management Procedure, and if Japan or any other nation can afford to conduct pelagic whaling on the basis of limited harvesting, a reasonable solution in my opinion would be to establish an international foundation to pool a certain percentage of the profit accrued from the pelagic minke whaling. With the money pooled by this foundation, the international community can procure supplies with which to help free people from starvation in some parts of the world. The IWC could be an organisation to co-ordinate for the world community pooling the funds to serve such a purpose. In this way we would be fulfilling the words of the Convention expressed in its Preamble, "Recognizing the interest of the nations of the world in safeguarding for future generations the great natural resources represented by the whale stocks".


(This part added by the owner of this WWW page.)

(*1) This seems to be the author's mistake. It was early 19th century that Western nations started whaling offshore Japan, and it was late 19th century that the Japanese coastal whaling declined.