Rebuttal to the Japanese Whaling Delegation

Recently (June 23rd, 2005) the Australian Broadcasting Company interviewed the head of the Japanese Whaling Delegation Joji Morishita. Morishita was interviewed by reporter Sarah Clarke.

Here Captain Watson comments on the answers given by Morishita.

SARAH CLARKE: Delegates from some of the countries supporting that resolution describe Japan's scientific cull of whales as pathetic, insulting, and a farce. How do you react to that?

JOJI MORISHITA: I think they have never read the scientific reports by the IWC. Our research activities are making contributions to the scientific advancement for the management of whales, and the claim that we have no science in the research is totally a lie.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: We have indeed read the scientific reports of the IWC and the contribution by the Japanese to scientific knowledge on whales is meager to say the least. In the early nineties, documentary film maker Mark Votier was onboard the Japanese factory ship and filmed hundreds of hours of whale killing operations. He said that there was only one biologist taking ear bone samples to determine age. In his opinion it was first and foremost a commercial operation, and science was the mask and a rather poor mask at that. The bottom line is that the claim by Japan that these whales are being slaughtered for "scientific research" is absolutely and totally bogus. It reminds me of the Icelandic "scientific research" where they claim a need to kill whales to discover what was causing a decline in whale populations. Would Japan kill whales for research if there was no market for whale meat? The answer is no.

SARAH CLARKE: The IWC scientific committee also questions some elements of your scientific research. Does that hold some weight?

JOJI MORISHITA: You should say that some part of the scientific committee always asks some questions and criticises our research plan - more than 60 per cent of the scientists think this is scientific activity.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: This must be news to the Scientific Committee. If 60% of the scientists think this is legitimate scientific activity than why does Japan not have a majority support by the scientists?

SARAH CLARKE: Humpbacks are still considered threatened species. Why do you need to extend the research program to include humpbacks?

JOJI MORISHITA: The humpback and the fin have been increasing quite rapidly and our total ecosystem over the Antarctic Ocean is going through some kind of a shift, and we just cannot ignore humpbacks and fin whales in order to know this shift.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: The very fact that Morishita claims that humpback and fin whales have been increasingly quite rapidly in numbers indicates that the man does not know what he is talking about. There is not a shred of evidence to demonstrate that humpback populations are increasing rapidly. The humpback is an endangered species. The fin is an endangered species. Killing endangered species cannot be justified. What possible data can be obtained from killing endangered whales?

SARAH CLARKE: Some African nations and Nauru have recently joined up. Did Japan have anything to do with their new enrolment?

JOJI MORISHITA: All we are doing is talking to these countries and trying to persuade them that whaling issues at the International Whaling Commission is important for all fisheries countries.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: This statement makes absolutely no sense. Why is whaling important to a nation just because they are a fishing nation? The only people who eat whales are the Japanese, the Norwegians, the Icelanders, and some aboriginal communities. No one in Africa eats whale meat. Japan is buying votes in return for making foreign aid available to fishing industries in other nations. This aid benefits Japan because the fishing industries they are supporting in turn provide fish for sale to the Japanese market.

SARAH CLARKE: Why would Gambia care?

JOJI MORISHITA: Even non-fisheries countries or very poor countries have some interest in wildlife resource utilisation. That's why they are interested and come here to support us.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: Yes, like bush meat for example. That is a good example of wildlife utilization. All people all over the world are contributing to the rapid decline of wildlife both on land and in the sea. Japan is trying to increase the efficiency of these nations in exterminating wildlife and the reason is that Japan is the world's leading consumer of products from endangered species.

SARAH CLARKE: Has Japan used financial aid as any form of persuasive measure to get them on board?

JOJI MORISHITA: We are sending overseas aid to more than 160 countries, and that's not connected to IWC.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: And if you believe that, than Santa Claus really does live at the North Pole. We know for a fact that nations like St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada received aid that was tied directly to their votes at the IWC. If you look into the St. Lucia phone book under government listing and look up the Ministry of Fisheries you will find a listing for Japanese fishing representative. Japan, in fact, places conditions on aid packages for fisheries that demand support for the Japanese position on whaling at the IWC. In addition, Japan pays for the membership fees of these nations to attend the IWC meetings.

SARAH CLARKE: But how can some countries like Nauru afford to sign up?

JOJI MORISHITA: They are small island countries, and they have to depend on marine resources for their survival and the future viability as a country.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: Japan provided the funds for the membership fee for Nauru. Japan also provided the seed money and gives annual contributions to the World Council of Whalers that represents aboriginal whaling communities around the world.

SARAH CLARKE: Would Japan consider helping them out financially to pay their enrolment fees, if it got them on board?

JOJI MORISHITA: No, I don't think so because they are an independent country and they have to pay by themselves, and that's the responsibility of any independent country.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: This is simply manipulating the answer. Yes, Nauru and other countries pay the membership fee themselves. What Morishita is avoiding is the answer to where the funds come from. Japan gives the money to Nauru in an aid package and Nauru is "free" to spend their funds as they see fit. Of course, they have already agreed to join the IWC at Japan's request and amazingly enough they have available funds to join. I don't have exact figures for membership fees but it is a few hundred thousand dollars. There is no way that Nauru is going to fork over that kind of money to sit at the table of the IWC when there is no vested interest in Nauru to go whaling or to consume whale meat.

Final Comment: Japan is violating international law in targeting endangered species in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. They must be stopped.