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Environmental Studies

Japan's Whaling Problem

Introduction
History

    2007

Why is Japan continuing JARPA?

    History

    Research

    Economics

    Diverting Attention

    Japanese Pride

Backlash

    The US

    Australia

    Australian Citizens

    Japanese Citizens

   Sea Shepherd

Conclusion

What You Can Do to Help

 

References & Links


Comments & questions to:
ttran@macalester.edu



Japan's Whaling Problem

Backlash

Japan has lost considerable international prestige by sustaining its whaling program. Many anti-whaling nations such as France, Germany, UK, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Portugal etc. have opposed Japan’s whaling practices. Two countries in particular have taken strong actions to voice their opposition.


The US

The US has been a strong opponent of JARPA since the conception of the program. When the IWC passed its whaling moratorium in 1986, Japan threatened to file protests as well as disregard the moratorium. It took threats of economic sanctions from the US in order to get Japan to agree with the moratorium. More recently, the US government has publicly condemned Japan’s JARPA program. In November 2007, Department of State spokesman Sean McCormack strongly urged Japan against including humpback and fin whales in its culling quota. He further noted that “non-lethal research techniques are available to provide almost all relevant data on whale populations.” (BBC, November 2007)


Australia

Australia has always been a strong supporter of the whaling moratorium. In 1994, in an effort to forestall whaling practices, Australia claimed a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone around the Australian Antarctic Territory, which also included a southerly portion of the IWC Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Under international law, this Exclusive Economic Zone gave Australia exclusive right to harvest all of the marine life and resources within the zone thus denying Japan permission to whale in the sanctuary. Japan, however, ignored the Exclusive Economic Zone. More recently, the government of Australia has taken more hard-lined steps to deal with Japanese whaling ships. The government of Australia has issued a public statement denying any Japanese whaling vessels the permission to dock in Australian ports. The Australian government has also mobilized the MV Viking, an Australian Customs service patrol ship, as well as an Airbus aerial patrol plane to follow the Japanese whaling fleet with the purpose of collecting photographic and video evidence that could be used to challenge Japan in international courts. (Taylor, 2007.)


Australian Citizens

 Australian citizens have had a strong impact in influencing Australia’s policies towards Japanese whaling. Because Australia has a very profitable whale watching industry, Australian citizens have time and time again encouraged their government to act against Japanese whaling. A major point of contention is Migaloo, the only known albino humpback whale, who is the star in many whale watching trips. When asked by the press if they will kill Migaloo should they meet him, the Japanese government gave no definite answer, inciting outrage in many Australians. This outrage was transferred into definite action when in November of 2007, a strongly anti-whaling party took control of Australia’s congress.


Japanese Citizens

The Japanese public, for the large part, have remained pretty ambivalent about the whaling issue (Hogg, 2006).  Although they largely disapprove of whaling, they do not feel strongly enough or feel that they know enough to challenge the status quo. In fact, off the record, some senior officials in the Japanese government have admitted that whaling policy has been hijacked by a small but vocal minority (Hogg, 2006). This vocal minority, consisting mainly of nationalists funded by the powerful fishing industry, has maintained pressure on policy makers as well as public opinion to ensure that the policy is upheld.

There have, however, been some citizen-led initiatives to end JARPA. In January 2008, one thousand Japanese nationals boarded a boat nicknamed the “Peace Boat” in protest of Japan’s whaling policies. According to the protesters, “most Japanese people reject government propaganda that whaling is culturally and historically significant. [Furthermore]Japan's pro-whaling constituency is comprised of ultranationalists, racists, extreme right-wing neo-cons who control Japan's ruling LDP party and the small, but politically powerful fishing industry, which has been in decline for decades after the government turned a blind eye to overfishing that led to the collapse of Japan's coastal fish stocks.” The group also criticized the Japanese government for “pandering to ultranationalists and ignoring Japanese public opinion.” (Allard, 2008).

A counter movement is also appearing in Japan. Concerned citizens have pointed to the whaling controversy as an example of the level of corruption within the Japanese government and are demanding that top government officials step down. Many citizens see it as an example of the Japanese government placing the interests of special interest groups over those of the populous (Allard, 2008). Marine biologist Kennichi Ozawa put it best when he reflected, “Japan resembles a totalitarian state like North Korea more than any western democracy… Essentially the same political group has been in power since the war ended despite almost weekly corruption scandals and flagrant pork barrel politics.”


Sea Shepherd

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has promoted more global awareness to Japan’s whaling program. Founded in 1977 for the purpose of enforcing international environmental laws, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has played many roles in curbing international whaling. In the past, ships operated by the society have rammed and even sunk vessels suspected to be illegally whaling. The society also regularly distracts whalers through several means, such as sabotage, in order to temporarily halt the whaling. The society has been confronting Japanese whalers since 2005,  but has only recently made international headlines due to several audacious maneuvers. On January 15, 2008, the society threw glass bottles laden with butyric acid onto the decks of Japanese whalers. Afterwards, two members of the society boarded the whalers in order to interrupt the whaling and were detained. Although no one was hurt and the two members were eventually released, these maneuvers slowed the progress of the whaling and, more importantly, brought heavy media coverage to the topic.


MV Viking

Picture: MV Viking, Australian customs ship monitoring Japanese whalers.

migalooPicture: Migaloo has played a major role in this issue.

Peace Boat

Picture: Japanese nationals above the Peace Boat.

Sea Shepherd released from Japanese whaler

Picture: Two members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are released after being held for illegally boarding a Japanese whaler.






Last updated:  5/7/2008

 


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