Quantcast
Connect with us

Japan bolts whaling commission, but tensions may ease

Published

on

Japan has made good on years of threats by bolting the International Whaling Commission, but its decision may also offer a way out of tensions that looked inextricable.

Japan, which calls whaling part of its cultural heritage, said Wednesday it would withdraw from the seven-decade-old commission which since 1986 has banned commercial killing of the ocean giants.

ADVERTISEMENT

But while Japan vowed to forge ahead with full-fledged commercial hunts off its coast, it put a halt to its most provocative whaling — annual expeditions to the Antarctic which use an IWC loophole that permits whaling for scientific research.

Australia and New Zealand have been outraged by Japan’s incursions into waters they consider a whale sanctuary and activists harassed the whalers in often dangerous chases.

Patrick Ramage, a veteran watcher of IWC negotiations, called the announcement an “elegantly Japanese solution” that looks on the surface like defiance but will likely mean a much smaller hunt.

“What this provides is a face-saving way out of high seas whaling. And it is difficult to see that as anything other than good news for whales and the commission established to manage and conserve them,” said Ramage, program director for marine conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ramage said that the IWC, where Japan will now have observer status, can focus on increasingly serious threats to whales such as climate change, plastic pollution, ship-strikes and accidental net entanglement from the soaring fishing industry.

AFP / Gal ROMAJapan’s whale hunt

“It will be a net positive to allow the commission and its member countries to move beyond what has been a disproportionate and warping debate on whaling,” he said.

Norway and Iceland also hunt whales but remain within the IWC, instead formally registering objections to the ban.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which opposes any killing of whales and attempted to stop Japan’s fleet forcibly in the Antarctic, declared victory over Tokyo’s announcement but vowed not to accept any whaling by the three countries.

– Mounting obstacles –

For Japan, which generally prides itself on its contributions to international organizations, whaling has been a rare space in which it confronts its usual Western allies, with Japanese officials at IWC meetings railing against what they see as cultural imperialism.

ADVERTISEMENT

While whale meat is rarely eaten in modern Japan, whaling has become a matter of principle for the powerful fishing business and port cities such as Shimonoseki, the home base of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

AFP/File / Kazuhiro NOGIJapan, which calls whaling part of its cultural heritage, said it would withdraw from the seven-decade-old International Whaling Commission, which since 1986 has banned commercial killing of the ocean giants

But Japan’s whalers also faced serious obstacles outside the IWC. The Nisshin Maru, the world’s only remaining whaler factory ship and flagship in the “scientific” expeditions, is 31 years old and set for replacement.

Japan — adamant that it has always followed the letter of the law — also in 2014 lost a lawsuit filed by Australia at the International Court of Justice, which rejected Tokyo’s argument that its whaling was for science, although the narrow ruling allowed Japan to reconstitute its program.

ADVERTISEMENT

And CITES, the global conference that governs wildlife trade to protect endangered species, in October reprimanded Japan for shipments of meat of sei whales, the main type it kills on the high seas.

Japan’s coastal whaling is expected to focus on minkes, the smallest of the great whales whose stocks are widely considered healthy.

– Latest shift for IWC? –

ADVERTISEMENT

The Cambridge, England-based IWC was established after World War II to manage whaling, seeking to ensure meat for a hungry Japan and, less successfully, to contain the Soviet Union’s prolific slaughter of whales.

After the IWC voted for the moratorium, Japan sought to pack the commission with allies — often small developing countries with no whaling tradition — but has continuously failed to reach the two-third threshold it needed.

As one of the earliest results of international environmental diplomacy, the IWC has advocates who say it must be preserved.

ADVERTISEMENT

Peter Stoett, a professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology who has written a book on the IWC, said Japan’s withdrawal marked a setback for the commission which will no longer have universal membership.

But he said Japan’s absence could reorient the IWC once again to focus on science and diplomacy to address climate change and other urgent threats to whales and other cetaceans.

“As dramatic as this is, the major threat to cetaceans today is not coming from harpoons,” Stoett said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The end of all whales could come, but that would be because the oceans are just too warm for the ecosystem support structure that they need,” he said.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump is ‘having a full-blown mental breakdown’ and needs to resign: Ex-Trump staffer

Published

on

Leading Republican elected officials should work with President Donald Trump's family to negotiate him resigning from office, a former top White House official suggested on MSNBC on Friday.

Former White House press secretary Anthony Scaramucci blasted his former boss during an interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC's "Meet the Press Daily."

"He has totally and completely lost it. There is nobody that can look at the situation, read the tweets, look at the press sprays, and say he hasn’t lost it," Scaramucci argued.

"What does that mean, lost it?" Todd asked. "Define that."

Continue Reading

Facebook

Obama’s chief economist warns of ‘a very high chance’ Trump’s trade war could cause 2020 recession

Published

on

The former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama warned of "a very high chance" of Trump's trade war with China resulting in a recession -- "just in time for 2020."

Austan Goolsbee was interviewed by MSNBC's John Heilemann on Friday after the DJIA closed down over 600 points after the trade war escalated on Friday.

"Just give us, if you would, Austan, your sense of what has unfolded today and how bad it is," Heilemann asked.

"Yes, it’s terrible, I'm phoning from a bunker as we speak," Goolsbee replied.

"There hasn’t been a day like this in a very long time. Yes, the markets sell a lot but the fact we’re going to have an escalating trade war, the president of the United States is publicly declaring the head of the Fed an enemy of the state and, oh, by the way, 40% of the Amazon is on fire and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is being treated for pancreatic cancer," he continued. "If this is on a Friday, it makes it bad for Monday."

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump responds to China raising tariffs — by raising tariffs on over half a trillion dollars in Chinese goods

Published

on

After US markets tanked on Friday, President Donald Trump dramatically escalated his trade war with China.

"For many years China (and many other countries) has been taking advantage of the United States on trade, intellectual property theft, and much more. Our country has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year to China, with no end in sight," Trump tweeted.

"Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of fair and balanced trade that it has become a great burden to the American taxpayer. As President, I can no longer allow this to happen," he argued.

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image