So, I've been delaying my next update because I wanted to have it coincide with the launch of the new Global Ocean website, which I have been dedicating most of my time to recently. I've already written the entry there and it's beautiful and awesome, BUT...the site still isn't up. It was supposed to be up three weeks ago, but I got an email this morning saying the site content was lost. Not gone, not deleted...lost. So, it's out there on the internet somewhere. If you see it, let me know.
In the meantime...let's talk about whales. So much whale news!
photo credit Australian Customs Service
Whaling season has crept up on us again, and the tensions are running high in several countries, namely Japan. Earlier in July a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to discuss a potential whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean was delayed one year thanks to a walkout of those representing Japan & friends.
"Delegates from Japan, Iceland and a number of allied Caribbean and African nations walked out when the issue came up at the IWC's annual talks in Jersey, throwing the meeting into disarray. They later returned to the IWC floor but no agreement was reached on the issue, which was put on hold until next year's IWC meeting to be held in Panama."
Some good news from this meeting, however, is that the IWC has changed its membership fee policy to that of accepting only bank transfers, which are easily traced. This was due to concern that Japan has been buying smaller nation's memberships in return for their pro-whaling votes.
Japan has been adamant about continuing their whaling programs in the Antarctic despite its unpopularity worldwide. Guess who else has been adamant about returning to the Antarctic? Sea Shepherd. Oh yeah. That's right.
"Each successive year, Sea Shepherd has sent bigger fleets and faster vessels, while Japan has downscaled its forces; last season, for the first time, the activists had the upper hand."
An interesting sidenote: "Some observers have suggested that Japan sees blaming Sea Shepherd as a way to escape from Southern Ocean whaling without losing face."
Come August, however, change was in the air:
"A senior member of a government review panel set up to advise options after last summer's disastrous season has raised the stakes by openly calling for a halt. Respected Japanese consumer advocate Hisa Anan rejected any scientific need to kill whales.
'Research whaling has been conducted for more than 20 years now,' Ms Anan told the ABC through an interpreter in Tokyo. 'I think they've gathered enough scientific data and even if they want more, they can conduct non-lethal research.'"
The Fisheries Agency has even suggested the end of Japanese whaling, but a minority of the panel seems to agree.
A significant concern of the Japanese pro-whalers appears to be pride and saving face. The terms "giving up", "giving in" and "quitting" frequently come up on their side of the argument. It's common knowledge that the Japanese are a proud people - and for good reason too. Their discipline and schooling standards are well known throughout the world as top-notch, and their culture is one that is sensitive to and offended by outsiders trying to come in to tell them what to do. All understandable. However, most of the world seems to agree that the time for whaling has passed. The proportion of the Japanese population that actually consumes whale meat is small, and the financial burdens of supporting an expensive overseas industry with little return is worth mentioning.
Last year Japan went home with less than 1/5th of their total catch quota thanks to the Sea Shepherd crew. Some are arguing that it's too dangerous and simply not worthwhile to whale anymore, but others are just too proud to call it quits.
More information here:
Japan Walkout throws Whaling Talks into Disarray - TimesUnion.com
Whaling Body Outlaws Malpractice with Anti-Corruption Reform - The Guardian
Japan 'To Continue' Antarctic Whaling - BBC
Japanese Advocate calls for Halt to Whale Hunt - Sydney Morning Herald
Japan Considers Canning Whaling Program - ABC Australia