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The Japanese are slaughtering whales again

Written By: - Date published: 1:24 pm, January 7th, 2014 - 23 comments
Categories: Environment, Japan, john key, national - Tags: ,

Sea Shephere Japanese whaling boat copy

Back in February 2010 John Key said that he had a potential solution to solving the whaling crisis which he would discuss with Hillary Clinton and that he would take his plan to the upcoming International Whaling Commission meeting.  Regrettably nothing ever came of it.  As Eddie commented at the time it appeared that Key was talking out of his arse.  It subsequently transpired that Key had formed the view that to save the whales you had to kill the whales.

This year we are again witnessing Japanese intransigence and the slaughter of whales in what is meant to be a Whale sanctuary.

Whales are generally protected under International Law.  They cannot generally be hunted.  But for some strange reason an exception was put into the relevant international treaty which allowed for the “scientific” killing of whales.

It is really hard to understand why this exception was allowed.  After all what scientific information can you acquire from the slaughter of a whale in the context of a treaty that is meant to be trying to preserve them?  Perhaps the evidence could be helpful if whales are facing some species extinction threatening event and the scientific data collected may help us avoid this outcome.  But killing them with the result that their carcasses are delivered to Japanese Restaurants?  How scientific is this?

The details are contained in the International Convention for the regulation of whaling.  Under article 8:

[A]ny Contracting Government may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research subject to such restrictions as to number and subject to such other conditions as the Contracting Government thinks fit, and the killing, taking, and treating of whales in accordance with the provisions of this Article shall be exempt from the operation of this Convention.

The purpose of the convention includes:

Recognizing the interest of the nations of the world in safeguarding for future generations the great natural resources represented by the whale stocks;

Considering that the history of whaling has seen over-fishing of one area after another and of one species of whale after another to such a degree that it is essential to protect all species of whales from further over-fishing;

It also recognised that “whale stocks are susceptible of natural increases if whaling is properly regulated, and that increases in the size of whale stocks will permit increases in the number of whales which may be captured without endangering these natural resources” but regrettably we are not in that position as yet.

Clause 7(b) of the schedule to the convention designates the Southern Ocean Sanctuary as an area protected from commercial whaling.  The Japanese are using the scientific research loophole as justification for hunting in this area but you have to wonder about the validity of the justification given the use the whale meat is put to and you have to shake your head at the belligerence of the Japanese in killing whales in an area specially designated as a sanctuary.

The Japanese argument is frankly bogus.  Allowing whaling “for the purposes of scientific research” should require at least a passing relationship between the whaling and the gathering of useful information.  Sending factory ships out to kill and harvest multiple whales makes a mockery of the language of the treaty.

The validity of Japan’s use of the scientific whaling exception is due to be ruled on by the International Court of Justice in the near future.  The case has been argued and a decision is pending.  Australia, which commenced the case, is arguing that the scientific whaling exception is a pretext and a front for commercial whaling.  Japan is saying that it is seeking “scientific information on the basis of which Japan might be able to ask for the moratorium [on commercial whaling] to be lifted” and it is claiming that the use of an exception based on a scientific justification cannot be reviewed judicially.  This extreme argument is necessary because if the ICJ is to rule in any way on the merits of the science involved it will most likely say that this is a pretext and not permitted under the treaty.  My personal view is that the exception is bogus as a clipboard and pencil rather than a harpoon should be sufficient in determining whether existing numbers of whales are now such that commercial hunting can resume.

Sea Shepherd is again in the area and doing its best to disrupt the slaughter.  And as pointed out by Ruth Dyson whales involved in the Kaikoura whale watch are threatened.

The Government’s line is now more staunch.  In a released statement Murray McCully is quoted as saying:

The practice of whaling in the oceans south of New Zealand is pointless and offensive to a great many New Zealanders.

The New Zealand Government has repeatedly called on Japan to end its whaling programme. We reiterate this message today.”

Good stuff although the Government could send a clear message and send a naval ship to the area to keep the peace between the Japanese and the Sea Shepherd’s boats.  It appears that the Government has learned that its previous foray into the whale protection diplomacy area was a retrograde step.

John Key hopefully now understands that a merchant banker negotiation approach to international treaties designed to protect endangered species is the wrong approach to use.


23 comments on “The Japanese are slaughtering whales again”

  1. freedom 1

    “My personal view is that the exception is bogus as a clipboard and pencil rather than a harpoon should be sufficient in determining whether existing numbers of whales are now such that commercial hunting can resume.”

    perhaps they want to scientifically prove that slaughtering whales will lead to their extinction 🙁

  2. Bill 2

    Why doesn’t the NZ government simply tell the Japanese government that, as from today, all imports from Japan must carry a verifiable ‘free from nuclear contamination’ certificate? (Genuine public health concern that should have no problem in the face of any trade legislation)

    Small country – not much impact on Japanese exports. So undertake to publicise far and wide and loudly should anything slated for import to NZ be found to contain levels of radiation poisoning.

    I reckon that could do it.

    Although…seeing as Hillary (we came, we saw, they died) Clinton undertook a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy towards Japanese goods post Fukushima and since Johnny Boy is so enamoured by the US admin…

    Anyway. My point is that there are many ways to skin a cat. You just got to want to.

  3. Tracey 3

    Murray McCully ought to release a press statement of a message he has sent to Japan and the Institute for Cetacean Research which reads:

    Dear Prime Minister and Mr Inwood

    As you will be aware from your extensive research dedicated to the biological and social sciences related to whales dating back decades (1941), pilot whales have an almost clockwork tendency to beach themselves on the northernmost coast of our South Island at this time of the year.

    Please forward us as a matter of urgency your data, conclusions and solutions for preventing this happening to these precious creatures again next year.

    Yours faithfully

    Rt Honourable Murray McCully

    • Pete 3.1

      He can’t do that. We’ve already argued before the International Court of Justice that there’s no scientific merit in the Japanese whaling programme. Inferring that there is, even if it’s done with leaden sarcasm, would not help our case while we wait for the ruling.

      • Tracey 3.1.1

        It wouldnt make a blind bit of difference to the court decision if the Court is in decsion-making mode because no further evidence permitted Pete, ergo us inferring there is a research programme or not is irrelevant.

        It would show some freaking balls which this government has seriously lacked on the international stage. There’s a reason The US like Key so much, he is so damned maleable.

  4. Pete 4

    There was a really good comment on this over on Reddit:

    Unfortunately, these confrontations on the high seas between whale poachers and protesters continue because the government of Japan has turned whaling into a never-to-be-cancelled spending program for the benefit of fisheries bureaucrats (amakudari) who expect to one day get high paid jobs in the same whaling industry that’s currently propped up by government funding. The whaling is not done for ‘science’ or for ‘tradition’ (as if that were a valid reason) and it’s completely irrelevant to Japan’s food security and economic prosperity.

    Regardless, demand for whale meat in Japan is so pathetically low the government failed to sell 75% of the catch in 2012. Much of the whale meat is fed to children in compulsory school lunches and last year the government stated its intent to serve whale to defense forces too. In a 2012 survey of Japanese citizens, 89% of the respondents stated they had not purchased any whale meat in the last year. So, it seems if the government did not force whale meat on children most of them would never even know the taste of it. So much for ‘tradition’.

    • Tracey 4.1

      I don’t know what reddit is, but do you have a link to these statements. Did it come to light during Australia’s court case? We tagged on after our courageous leaders weighed up any fallout for Australia and saw it was safe to make a principled stand on something.

      ” government failed to sell 75% of the catch in 2012. Much of the whale meat is fed to children in compulsory school lunches and last year the government stated its intent to serve whale to defense forces too. In a 2012 survey of Japanese citizens, 89% of the respondents stated they had not purchased any whale meat in the last year.”

      “Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully today announced New Zealand has formally lodged an intervention before the International Court of Justice in the case brought by Australia against Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.

      Intervention is a procedure that enables a non-party to the case to put its legal views before the court.

      Australia brought an action before the International Court of Justice in 2010 questioning the validity of Japan’s so called “scientific” whaling programme in the Southern Ocean. In December 2010, the New Zealand Government decided in principle to intervene in the case.

      “The government has now delivered on its stated intention,” Mr McCully says.

      “As a member of the International Whaling Commission, New Zealand has an interest in ensuring that the IWC works effectively and that the Whaling Convention is properly interpreted and applied.

      “This is why the government decided to intervene. I do not intend to comment any further on our intervention at this stage, as the matter is now before the court.”

      Mr McCully says he is disappointed New Zealand had to pursue its interests in the ICJ because diplomatic initiatives failed to bring about a cessation of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.

      “New Zealand has worked hard with Japan for over three years to try and find a permanent solution to whaling in the Southern Ocean. The government will continue to use all avenues possible to try to bring a halt to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.”” my emphasis which I take to mean do nothing but make a belated speech to the court following Australia doing the right and courageous thing.

  5. Will@Welly 5

    Come on, get serious. Key and Obama on the golf course, do you think whales even rated a mention. No, trade, spying and what Mr Key could do for America would have been on the agenda.
    With Japan signing up to the TPP, Mr Key will not want to ruffle anyone’s feathers, so don’t expect much action. Expect old snake oil to defend Japanese entitlements to “customary rights”.

  6. Ennui 6

    I like whales, I don’t like whalers. I also like whales to eat krill and other things that rely upon plankton…..

    NZ as was pointed out on a recent TS post does not adhere or attempt to adhere to climate change mitigation. Just as surely as Japs are killing whales so are you and I, and our country every time we turn the keys to the cars ignition (and in other countless ways). We do so because our reliance on fossil fuels is acidifying the ocean which will kill the food chain at source, and heating the ocean, which will also kill off the flora/fauna.

    We have got a big job to do to save our planet, so rather than getting depressed and saying we are doomed, walk home, ride a bike, turn off a light, dont buy something whatever little thing you can.

    • Tracey 6.1


      People need to get it into their heads that our world survives as an ecosystem of which we are a part, not apart.

  7. fambo 7

    World War 3 will be started over whales.

  8. Murray Olsen 8

    Scientific whaling is in the same tradition of scientific research that saw Unit 731 established in Manchuria. Postwar, the Americans recognised this as genuine research and agreed that none of the records would be used in the prosecution of war crimes. If and when it suits them, the US will recognise the whale slaughter as valid scientific research. Key will not argue. When he says “That’s the opinion of one scientist, I can find someone with the opposite view”, he wasn’t referring to what suits US foreign policy.

    On the other hand, the Chinese, especially those from around Harbin, have not forgotten. Paradoxically, as China becomes stronger, they may be the whales’ best hope.

  9. Brian 9

    John Key is a useless …

    please fill in the rest…

  10. captain hook 10

    they dont even need the meat.
    they have warehouses full of whale meat.
    they just doing it to subsidise the equivalent of Japanese baby boomers.
    A pity they dont need some wail oil.
    they could harpoonit and have it for free.

    • fender 10.1

      I daresay if we let them harpoon ‘wail oil’ and winch it on deck they’ll be so disgusted with their catch they’ll go home and give up whaling altogether..

  11. Matthew 11

    Sending a naval presence down there would merely inflame the situation and potentially put the New Zealand government in some very difficult situations. It is the dumbest idea available to deal with the issue.

    All we can do is await the judgement on the NZ/Australia court case and make our next move from there.

    • Tracey 11.1

      Stop calling it NZ/Australia, that may be literally true but is disingenuous at best. Can you outline the potential very difficult situations?

    • Colonial Viper 11.2

      Hey mate it’s the open seas whats your problem if we just happen to have a naval presence in the area?

    • Murray Olsen 11.3

      Thank god Norman Kirk didn’t ask you for advice, Matthew.

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