Recently the Japanese massmedia have hit on a new theory of justifying whaling. "Whales have increased in numbers so much that they eat 3 to 6 times more fish than humans do. Thus whaling is necessary to save the eco-system and as a policy to ensure food supply." The Institute of Cetacean Research which is carrying out research whaling on behalf of the national government's Fishery Agency states in a pamphlett entitled 'The annual food consumption of all whale species in the world's oceans' that whales consume 280 - 500 million tons of food annually. In order to further substantiate this theory, whaling boats left Japan at the end of July, this time adding 50 Brydes Whales and 10 Sperm Whales to the 100 Minke Whales that they had already been taking from the north Pacific Ocean.
Certainly this theory may sound like music to the ears of people in the fishing industry who have been very worried about depletion of fishery resources due to severe overfishing. That's because not only do manage to avoid having to restructure the present commercial fishing industry, they are also promised the profit from whale meat.
However, there are many experts who cast doubts on this way of thinking. Marine eco-systems are just not that simple. The main predetors for fish are larger fish, and marine birds and pinnipeds (seals and walruses) also eat fish. Whale's prey varies greatly depending on area and they don't necessarily eat only fish that humans use for commercial purposes. During the reproductive period, there are Baleen Whales that don't eat at all. Estimates based on amount of energy released are very uncertain and can change drastically due to even a slight difference in input data. Reducing the number of whales is not directly linked to recovery of fishery resources. What caused depletion of these resources in the first place was humans and the way they recklessly overfished.Changing the natural environment of the sea according to the whims and preference of humans may not be 'environmental destruction,' but what is it? And before we even ask that, we must ask ourselves whether human beings can bring together enough knowledge to actually be able to change the natural environment of the sea to suit our own needs and purposes.
In Japan, theories which would normally provoke the response 'Who would ever believe that?!' somehow gain credibility. Japan is a small island nation whose people have always got much of their animal protein requirements from the surrounding sea. Even now, there are many occasions when raw fish-sashimi- is a standard food that cannot be left off the menu. I believe it is this background that has led to the absurd campaigns that the whaling industry advances and the uncritical public support they have. But what really worries me is the victim complex that maintains Western anti-whaling sentiments are merely a form of Japan-bashing, and the warped nationalism this gives rise to.
by Kurasawa Nanami (from the Dolphin & Whale Action Network)
source...New Internationalist magazine, #325/July 2000/annexed Japanese version #14