Ishii says Japan was committed to scientific whaling rather than commercial whaling, which he describes as ‘the worst scenario for pro-whaling circles in Japan.’
‘If the moratorium on commercial whaling was lifted, there would be no justification for scientific whaling and the subsidies and free interest loans provided for scientific whaling operations would be reduced and ultimately eliminated,’ he says.‘The reported stockpile of whale meat is a record, and there’s probably even more stored elsewhere which isn’t subject to data collection. If the whaling industry loses the subsidies and loans, it would face bankruptcy as there’s no demand.’
Another explanation for whaling given by the industry is Japan’s long-stated goal of ‘food security,’a notion supported by the University of Adelaide’s Rathus.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
‘The food security issue is about diversification more than anything else. If it becomes impossible for Japan to take staples such as blue-fin tuna or import substitutes, where is it going to get its meat from? The Japanese want to leave the door open for whale meat—they don’t want to close that door.’
Inwood says the Japanese government takes the food security issue ‘extremely seriously,’and that whale meat consumption had declined only due to restrictions on whaling.
‘The government of Japan maintains a whale meat stock of around 3000 to 4000 tonnes permanently in storage…there’s a permanent beef stockpile of around 60,000 tonnes, and the pork stockpile is 50,000 tonnes on average. Are these (anti-whaling) groups saying beef and pork isn’t wanted by Japanese people?’
‘Anti-whaling groups like to say, for example, that only five percent of Japanese people eat whale meat…(but) the anti-whaling argument based on whether a minimum number of people eat a particular meat is farcical,’he says, citing data showing twice as many Japanese eat whale meat compared with Australians who eat kangaroo.
Other analysts say Japan’s whaling policy was more due to its concern for protecting its fisheries rights internationally—a key issue for one of the world’s biggest seafood consumers.
‘The fight over whaling is not so much about whaling—it’s about Japan’s access to fisheries internationally,’ Kingston says.‘If Japan gives in on the whaling issue and allows nations to proclaim sanctuaries and cut off Japanese access, that doesn’t really bother a lot of people if it’s just whales.
‘But when you start talking about tuna and other favourite Japanese sushi items, then you’re getting people where it hurts, and that gets a lot of attention. In the fight over whaling, the Japanese are trying to establish a principle that they’re not going to relinquish their overseas fisheries rights.’
Solution in Sight?
Given the rancour over Japan’s overseas whaling—the nation’s domestic whaling activities attract far less publicity—the prospects for a resolution appear bleak. However, optimism overan eventual solution remains, and from some unlikely sources.