On the resumption of commercial whaling

An open letter to: An open letter to: 
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Takamori Yoshikawa
Fisheries Agency Director-General Shigeto Hase

On the resumption of commercial whaling

June 28, 2009
Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network

The Japanese government announced last December that it would withdraw from the International Whaling Commission, an operating body of the International Convention of Regulation of Whaling, and instead resume commercial whaling from July this year in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
We, Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network, object to Japan’s exit from the commission, it is our belief that international agreements are essential when addressing issues concerning migratory species such as cetaceans. Furthermore, based on the past experience, large mammals with low fertility rate, such as whales, are not suited for commercial use. In anticipating the return of commercial whaling, we would like you to address some our concerns and clarify uncertain issues.


Question 1. It was reported that the government of Japan reached the decision to resume commercial whaling based on the premise that cetaceans are marine resources and that whaling and whale meat diet are an essential part of Japanese culture. However, if the government was truly concerned about the inheritance of the tradition in those whaling regions, different tactics would have been chosen. If the coastal communities were to be revitalized, it would have been perhaps more effective to have limited distribution and use of whale meat within the regions instead of expanding it to a national scale commercial distribution. Were there any other options considered for the communities before the decision to leave the IWC was reached?


Question 2. The catch limit is said to be established within the framework of the IWC regulations. Please clarify which regulations are to be taken into account.- What measures are going to be put in place for avoiding by-catch of the rare coastal minke populations and Eden’s whales?- How, and at what point, do you intend to share the data (population of origin, catch coordinates, body size, and sex) on the caught whales?


Question 3.  For having an observer for the operating whaling ship, it seems that you are posting an observer from the Fisheries Agency or one of its related groups on the whaling mothership, and an observer at the landing base for small type coastal whaling ships. Please give reasons for why you are not employing a digital device for an observer, such as the ones currently used in Norway.


Question 4.  Commercial whaling is a for-profit public enterprise. As the government, will you continue to carry out whale meat promotions campaigns, using tax money? Also, if you are continuing to introduce whale meat into school lunches, will you still give discounts, and if so, is the government supplementing the cost?


Question 5.  If whale meat is to be utilized in school lunches, who is responsible and guarantees the safety of the whale meat?


Question 6.  Based on the assumption that you will be implementing safety inspections, who, and at which point, will conduct the examination of the whale meat after the whale is caught, for small-type whaling vessels and whaling mothership? As for the examination, aside from E. coli and other regular checks, will you conduct tests for radioactive substances and harmful chemical substances?
Please give the inspection system for when the meat is introduced into school lunches.


We duly await your written response.


Yours sincerely,

Nanami Kurasawa
Director-General
Iruma & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network

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