Is diplomacy making gains against Japanese whaling?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2009:
ROME–Some International Whaling Commission insiders believe
the IWC is close to brokering a deal that would allow the Japanese
government to end so-called “research whaling” without losing
political credibility.
Others believe Japanese actions against whaling opponents
show that the Japanese government believes it has the upper hand and
can force the IWC to reopen commercial whaling, after a 23-year
After initially refusing to honor the 1986 commercial whaling
moratorium, Japan in 1988 accepted the moratorium but began killing
whales in the name of “scientific research,” continuing to sell
whale meat. The 2009 self-allocated Japanese “research” quota
includes 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales.

The 63rd annual IWC meeting, to be held in Madeira,
Portugal, in June 2009, appears likely to open with the U.S. and
Australian delegations taking ambiguous positions. Nominally opposed
to whaling, both the U.S. and Australian governments appear to
endorse concessions that are mostly not supported by anti-whaling
advocacy groups.
“It is our view that any package, to be acceptable, must
result in a significant improvement in the conservation status of
whales,” White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Nancy
Sutley told Gina Dogget of Agence France-Presse on March 11, 2009,
after the inconclusive end of an IWC intersessional meeting held in
The present IWC chair, serving until the end of the June
2009 meeting, is Florida Atlantic University professor William
Hogarth, a George W. Bush administration appointee. Hogarth is
believed to be the chief author of a trade-off that would allow IWC
member nations to authorize commercial whaling in their territorial
waters in exchange for the end of “research whaling.”
That deal would allow the annual Taiji dolphin massacre and
other hunts of small whales in Japanese waters to continue without
the risk of the IWC claiming an expanded mandate to protect smaller
whales. The IWC has historically regulated only hunting of baleen
and sperm whales.
Whether the rumored deal would actually reduce the numbers of
regulated species that the Japanese fleet kills is unclear. Such a
deal would formalize IWC acceptance of the Norwegian assertion of a
right to kill minke whales in coastal waters, with a 2009 quota of
885. An IWC rule allowing coastal whaling would also almost
certainly bring other nations back into commercial whaling.
South Korea, in particular, already has a small
whale-butchering industry, which processes the meat of whales
nominally caught by accident by fishing vessels. South Korean
fishers have clamored to be allowed to hunt whales legally.
Iceland, not currently an IWC member, will allow whalers to
kill 150 minke whales and 150 endangered fin whales this year, under
a quota allocated by a former coalition government on the day it left
office. The new government has hinted that it may cut the quota next
“We have been warning all along that if Japan gets a deal,
other countries are going to want part of the action,” Whale &
Dolphin Conservation Society policy director Sue Fisher told Andrew
Darby, covering whaling issues for the Sydney Morning Herald and
Melbourne Age.
Japan’s “political will is far greater than the combined
political will of the pro-conservation governments,” Fisher added,
to Dogget of Agence France-Presse.
The IWC Rome intersessional meeting adopted a resolution
deploring “acts of violence against ships” and calling for “action to
be taken by the relevant authorities” in response to the efforts of
the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in particular, to obstruct
Japanese whaling within the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary,
declared by the IWC in 1994.
Australian federal police on February 20, 2009 seized 157
video rolls from Discovery Channel personnel aboard the Sea Shepherd
flagship Steve Irwin, along with Sea Shepherd navigational records,
as the ship docked in Hobart.
“The videos show the Sea Shepherd clashes with Japanese
whalers,” including a collision between the Steve Irwin and the
Japanese whale-catching vessel Yushin Maru #2 on February 6, 2009,
“and may be given to the Japanese government,” wrote Andrew Darby.
“A federal agent said yesterday’s raid resulted from a formal
referral from Japanese authorities. Australian National University
law professor Don Rothwell said international legal obligations meant
evidence of alleged maritime offences could be forwarded to Japan.
“People actively opposing whaling could be persecuted or
worse because of video evidence if it is sent to the Japanese,” said
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson. “I wish the Australian Government
would apply the same diplomatic pressure on Japan to end their
illegal whaling operations,” Watson added in a written statement.
“The Japanese ships have not been boarded by the Australian federal
police. They have not had their video and navigational data
confiscated. They have not been questioned, nor will they be, yet
they violently attacked my ship and crew.”
Noted Darby, “Attempts by Green Party Senator Bob Brown to
obtain information on Japanese whaling gathered by the Australian
patrol ship Oceanic Viking last year have been rejected. The
Environment Department has ruled that releasing images or data would
“adversely affect the confidence Japan would have in our diplomatic
efforts to achieve an end to ‘scientific whaling.'”
In Japan, meanwhile, Greenpeace on March 20, 2009 asked
the Fisheries Agency of Japan via Japanese legislator Shokichi Kina
for uncensored copies of whale meat sales documents. Copies obtained
through a 2008 Freedom of Information request were “supposed to
detail whale meat sales, as well as contracts between the FAJ and
the Institute of Cetacean Research,” said a Greenpeace press
release. “However, copies of the documents released on January 19,
2009 were so heavily redacted that they were worthless.”
The request was made as Greenpeace Japan members Junichi
Sato, 31, and Toru Suzuki, 41, face trial for allegedly stealing
whale meat.
Sato and Suzuki “tracked a package of whale meat to a mail
depot in northern Japan, summarized Los Angeles Times Tokyo
correspondent John M. Glionna, “after tipsters told them it
contained whale meat bound for the Japanese black market, smuggled
by crew members of a ship commissioned to kill whales for scientific
research. But when they held a cameras-flashing news conference to
turn the meat over to police, the officers instead arrested the
activists for trespass and theft. Japanese officials say the men are
eco-terrorists who stole the meat from a legitimate transporter to
falsely malign the nation’s whaling establishment. The pair could
receive up to 10 years in jail if convicted.”
“Our activists handed over a box of whale meat as evidence of
the whale meat smuggling operation, and the Tokyo public prosecutor
agreed there was sufficient evidence of wrongdoing,” said Greenpeace
oceans campaigner John Hocevar on June 20, 2008, after Sato and
Suzuki were arrested. However, the Tokyo District Public
Prosecutor’s Office in July 2008 cleared the implicated employees of
the whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd and the Institute of
Cetacean Research of the Greenpeace allegations against them.

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