Yasue Funayama: Everyone has the right to harvest whale stocks


Yasue Funayama: The International Whaling Commission has fallen into dysfunction due to irreconcilable differences among whaling nations such as Japan, Norway, and Iceland, and anti-whaling nations that include Australia. I had thought some progress could be made at the IWC's annual meeting in June because the IWC chairman had indicated a proposal aimed at drawing out a compromise between the two groups was in the cards. But I was wrong.

Captain Paul Watson: There is no question that the IWC is dysfunctional and the reason for this dysfunction is the bribing of votes by Japan and the refusal of Japan, Norway, and Iceland to respect the moratorium on commercial whaling that was passed with more than a two thirds majority of the member nations. The compromise was ridiculous and gave Japan exemptions from the moratorium but it was not enough for them. They wanted more and it all collapsed, and thankfully it did because it would have legalized much of Japan, Norway, and Iceland’s present illegal activities.

Yasue Funayama: Australia and Latin American nations became further entrenched in their basic position that research whaling in Antarctic waters should be banned altogether. But the proposal wasn't hammered out arbitrarily by the chairman and the vice chairman. On the contrary, many countries, including Australia, spent a great deal of time and energy working on the proposal. When parties have different opinions on an issue, they ought to discuss it thoroughly and try to seek a compromise. But this basic rule was not observed.

Captain Paul Watson: Whaling is already banned in Antarctic waters. It is called the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Japanese delegation does not seem to understand what the word “sanctuary” means.

Yasue Funayama: Japan's position is that anyone has a right to utilize marine resources--whether whales or tuna--so long as they are sustainable. Denying this right is tantamount to saying you can't catch anything other than farmed fish. What is at issue now is much bigger than whaling: It is the utilization of natural resources

Captain Paul Watson: The word “sustainable” has become a catch-word, meaning business as usual. Bluefin tuna are hardly sustainable, in fact it was only because of Japanese and Chinese bribery and influence that the Bluefin was not designated as endangered by CITES this year. The word “sustainable” is used to justify exploitation. No nation has the right to destroy entire species and to invest in the extinction of a species as Japan is doing with Bluefin tuna. As they diminish the numbers, the value of the fish increases and the frozen stocks in their warehouses become more valuable. Worldwide fisheries proponents are simply not responsible enough to manage any fishery in a ecologically beneficial manner. We have seen fishery after fishery collapse and 90% of the world’s fishes removed from the sea. There are simply not enough fish in the sea to continue to support increasing demands from increasing human populations. Japan believes that if they give in on their whaling demands they will have to give in on their fishery demands. Soon there will be a time when all “rights” to commercially fish will be denied, but by then it will be too late because it will be commercial and biological extinction that will put an end to all of this.    

Yasue Funayama: At the IWC meeting, Japan bore the brunt of criticism from anti-whaling nations, but other countries such as Caribbean and African nations also presented arguments that were basically the same as Japan's. Japan could survive without whaling. But for some nations, being denied access to natural resources is a matter of life and death. That's why Japan was ready to negotiate on catch quotas, but could never agree to a complete ban on whaling.

Captain Paul Watson: There is no nation on the planet dependent upon whaling. Only the wealthy nations of Japan, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark participate in whaling. This is not about keeping African nations from starving. In fact, African nations are being robbed of fish by modern European and Asian fishing fleets. These African and Caribbean nations that Funayama cites are the nations that Japan has bought and paid for and who vote at CITES and the IWC the way they are told to vote by Japan. It is Europe, China, and Japan that are denying natural resources to African nations. This argument that Japan needs to whale in the interest of poorer nations is simply ridiculous. 

Yasue Funayama: Japan continues to conduct research whaling in Antarctic waters in keeping with pertinent international rules. The current quota for minke whales is about 900 a year. The IWC chairman's proposal was to bring the annual quota down to 200 over the next 10 years. As a trade-off, coastal commercial whaling was to be effectively allowed.

Captain Paul Watson: Japan is not abiding by the rules. Japanese whalers are targeting endangered whales (Fins and Humpbacks) and protected whales (Minke) in an internationally established whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on whaling using bogus science as an excuse. It is also a violation of the Antarctic Treaty and the whaling operations continue in contempt of an Australian federal court order.

Yasue Funayama: The IWC's Scientific Committee has concluded that 2,000 Antarctic minke whales could be harvested annually without harming the stock. Even anti-whaling nations insist that discussions conducted at IWC meetings should be scientifically valid. In fact, Peter Garrett, Australia's minister for environment protection, raised this issue during the June meeting. So, I said to him during a bilateral meeting between Japan and Australia, "I felt reassured by your respect for science." But he made no response to that point. Even though the Scientific Committee spends money and time to accumulate scientific data, it appears that domestic affairs override science at negotiations for some countries.

Captain Paul Watson: Japanese whaling has no scientific validity. Japanese whaling ‘researchers’ have not published a single international peer reviewed scientific paper since the moratorium began in 1986. New Scientist magazine has condemned this “science” as bogus. Peter Garrett probably thought Funayama was making a joke when she said that, no wonder he did not respond. What could he have said that would not have been insulting to her? The IWC scientific committee does not condone Japan’s activities in the Southern Ocean.

Yasue Funayama: It doesn't help Japan if the IWC remains dysfunctional. And it won't help anti-whaling nations, either, because the IWC is the only forum where they can negotiate to conserve whale resources.

Captain Paul Watson: Yet it is Japan that keeps the IWC dysfunctional. What Funayama has said here is interesting. She is admitting that Japan and the whaling nations are not interested in conserving whale “resources” as she puts it. This is a veiled threat that should the IWC cease to exist, Japan, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark will simply do whatever they want and nations like Australia and the Latin American countries will have no recourse to stop them. 

Yasue Funayama: During the June meeting, Japan reached an agreement with the United States and New Zealand--both anti-whaling nations--on working together to seek common ground. A U.S. delegate thanked Japan for its attitude. I believe it will be fruitful for whaling nations and their supporters to get together and discuss the future shape of the IWC.

Captain Paul Watson: Yes we know that the Obama administration sold out the whales, along with New Zealand’s anti-environmental government. The compromise was a black eye for President Obama, especially so since it actually failed to pass.

Yasue Funayama: It is a fact that whale meat consumption in Japan has declined due partly to decreased supply. In Japan, which has a centuries-old tradition of whaling, whale meat is part of the diet. In the Ayukawa district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture, whaling is still a vital local industry.

Captain Paul Watson: I am proud of the fact that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has contributed to the reason there is a decreased supply of whale meat. The key to our strategy is economic. We need to negate illegal whaling profits by cutting the kill quotas of the Japanese whaling fleet. Japan does not have a centuries old tradition of killing whales in Antarctic. Japanese whaling began mid-century and was encouraged and directed by General Douglas MacArthur after 1946 to secure cheap mead for Japan’s post war population.

Yasue Funayama: During the June meeting, a Russian delegate said to the effect that while the majority of Russians don't eat whale meat, the culture and tradition of each country ought to be respected. To hand down our food culture to the next generation, I believe we must protect our right to utilize natural resources.

Captain Paul Watson: The question is will there be any future generations to hand anything down to? There are simply not enough whales and fish in the sea to continue to meet the demands of increased global populations. We are stripping life from the sea at unprecedented rates of exploitation using more and more sophisticated technology to more efficiently extract the less and less that remains. A fish has more value swimming in the sea maintaining the integrity of oceanic eco-systems than it has on anyone’s plate. If the fish disappear, the oceans will die, and if the oceans die – we die!

That fact alone is more important that this thing called “food culture.”