Include Marine Mammals In the law for the Protection of birds and mammals and Hunting !

Why Are Marine Mammals Under The Jurisdiction Of Fisheries Agency?

On a chilly day in March 1997, after a little over a month had passed since the capture of five orcas in Taiji in Wakayama prefecture, we, members of Dolphin and Whale Action Network along with Dr. Paul Spong, who was visiting Japan at that time, went to visit the then Environment Agency.

The reason for our visit to the Environment Agency derived from out question as to why it was necessary to capture orcas from the Japanese coastal sea, considering that more than 1,500 individuals in the area had been captured since World War Two mainly to exploit their oil, resulting in the substantial loss of the population or orcas in the area. Moreover, study and survey of the remaining number of individuals and the ecology of the entire population were stillyet to be undertaken, let alone the fact they are rare animals in the first place. Furthermore, it was our understanding that serious problems were created by the fact that the competent agency of orcas was not the Environment Agency, and instead it was the Fisheries Agency, of which job is to promote fishery.

When the Environment Agency was established in 1971, the jurisdiction of the entire species of terrestrial wild animals and birds, which until then had been under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Agency, was transferred to the Environment Agency. Then, the Law for the Protection of Birds and mammals and Hunting Law was applied to these animals. The law was originally stipulated for the hunters, but as the years passed, the content of the provisions concerning the conservation and management of wildlife changed. As a result, the capture of wild animals and birds was forbidden in principle. However, at that time, the Fisheries Agency made a secret agreement with the Environment Agency so that the Fisheries Agency could continue to maintain the jurisdiction of marine mammals within its Agency. The tragic condition in which marine mammals are forced to remain is reflected symbolically in the plight of the dugongs in Okinawa, which has become an international issue.

The then Wildlife Section Chief of the Environment Agency at the time of our visit was Mr. Hikaru Kobayashi. He was the former Chief of the Conservation Bureau, who just became very famous for raising voice of authority to conserve Fujimae tidal flat. When we told him about our concern, he answered, it is impossible for the Environment Agency to protect orcas, because the Agency doesn't have enough fund or any research institute. So, we left the Agency despondently.

Why Were Steller's Sea Lions And Whales Excluded?

Five years has passed since then. In April this year, Revised Law for the Protection of Birds and Animals and Hunting was put on the table for deliberation in the normal diet session for revision. The purpose of the revision is to rewrite the parts of the texts written in Katakana and old-fashioned Japanese into Hiragana. In the process of drawing up a new text of the law, it became necessary to make clear the definition of the terms used in the text, because their meanings had been vague until then. Consequently, the law was made to apply to all species of birds and mammals..

However, a problem lay hidden in this decision.

There is no way that the Fisheries Agency throws away its turf so easily. As a result, a compromise was made by the stipulation of the 80th article, which reads, the act does not apply to the mammals, of which captures are properly protected and managed under other ordinances, and stipulated by the Ministerial Ordinance of the Environment. As a result, while dugong, Japanese sea lion (listed as an endangered species in the Red List of the Environment Agency) and five subspecies of seals were included in the application of the Law of Protection of Birds and Mammals and Hunting, those of which captures are forbidden by an old law enacted in Meiji era, such as sea otters and fur seals, and those of which the quotas of captures are set by the Fisheries Act, such as the Steller's sea lions, and all species of cetaceans were excluded from the application of this act.

It is important to examine whether the other ordinances function for a proper protection and management of the capture of the mammals. But it is even more important to raise question about the irrational and unscientific approach of this separation regarding the application of the act. For example, if the other ordinances are to be the criteria for the separation, dugongs, which belong to the order of sea cow, and finless dolphins, which belong to the order of cetaceans, are both mentioned in the Fisheries Resource Protection Act and cultural assets protection Law. And the number of population of finless dolphins has also been decreasing to the point where it is critical, even though it may not be as serious as in the case of dugongs. In this sense, it seems the distinction of the treatment of dugongs and finless dolphins is only arbitrary.

Marine Mammals That Move In Large Areas Need International Protection

The Environment Committee of both of the Upper and Lower Houses of the Diet took up the issue of the exemption of certain species stipulated in the 80th article. It was an unprecedented feat that more than one diet members raised their voices for the protection of marine mammals. Especially, there was a heated debate concerning the treatment of the Steller's sea lion, as the contradiction in the text of the article was made clear.

The quota is set up for the capture of the Steller's sea lions in the Fisheries Act for the purpose of getting rid of them because of the claim that they give damages to the fishing industry. However, a researcher engaged in the survey of the Steller's sea lion testified, The method of setting up the quota has little scientific foundation.

In the United States and Russia, because of the concern that the number of the Steller's sea lions is decreasing in recent years, the authorities have designated the Steller's sea lion as a species that should be protected most carefully. However, in Japan, people keep shooting the Steller's sea lions that migrate from Russia to Japan in winter. Since the weight of the Steller's sea lions is heavy, quite a few of them are considered to sink into the sea after they are shot to death, and these sank bodies are not included in the count of the killed animals. Because of the over-killing of the Steller's sea lion, the population of them that migrate from Russia to Japan decreased to 400 to 500 individuals today, though they used to be in the thousands. Large part of the reasons for the loss of population in Russia is considered to be the killing in Japan for the fisheries purposes.

The act of getting rid of the Steller's sea lions surprise the animals. So, the herd gets dispersed. Ironically, this invites the expansion of damage to the fishing industry. Therefore, the act of getting rid of the Steller's sea lion can hardly be regarded as properly protected and managed. In order to avoid damage to the fishing industry caused by the Steller's sea lion, several methods were being considered such as improvement of the fishing nets. Another possible solution to the problem is to find a way to recover the drastic loss of fish resource in the Japanese coastal sea. In the past, even though harbor seals in Erimo-misaki promontory in Hokkaido were endangered, the fishermen were complaining about the damage caused by those seals. To solve this problem, the local residents helped the forest grow and recover an abundant resource of the sea. As a result, the fish population increased, and consequently, the damage caused by the harbor seals to the fishing industry was no longer considered a problem so much as before. The sea area where the Steller's sea lions come on migration is now very desolate with almost no fish. Unless a long-term plan is made to make the sea abundant, no amount of killing the Steller's sea lion will bring the solution to the problem.

The marine wildlife plays an important role in the ecosystem just as terrestrial wildlife plays an important role. And healthy land and sea are both indispensable for the formation of the environment and culture of Japan.

Today, wildlife is no longer considered as objects owned by people engaged in fishing industry or the Fisheries Agency. Instead, they came to be recognized as common trust property of all people. And all human beings are responsible for its conservation. Furthermore, as it is seen in the case of the Steller's sea lion, many of the marine mammals migrate in the big ocean without any national border. So, it is necessary to establish a measure of international protection and national responsibilities.

Japan has not ratified to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals(CMS), an international treaty to protect animal species that migrate beyond national borders. The reason for not ratifying is because it includes whales. It is our job to change such lack of international awareness of the Japanese officials no matter how hard a challenge it may be to us.

Deletion Of The 80th Article And The Need For The New Protection Act

Orcas and dolphins can earn huge income if they are sold to the aquariums. Dolphins and whales meat can be sold in the market for money. Since people can make money out of these animals, they are faced with a greater threat. Therefore, these species require even surer protection and management. Whether these species are exploited by human being or not, a measure of equal protection is needed. We would like to pass them on to the next generation as our inheritance. Also for this purpose, the 80th Article stipulating exemption should be deleted since it contradicts with the very purpose of the Law for the protection of Birds and mammals and Hunting, which is to secure biodiversity.

At the end of last year, a symposium was held by inviting Mr. Glen Lauder, who was involved with the formulation of the national strategy of biodiversity in New Zealand. At the symposium, he talked about the legal structure in New Zealand. I was especially impressed by the fact that the act called resource management act is put under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Nature. It is impossible to protect species whose populations have decreased by an act targeted at the promotion of fishing industry. If we are determined to protect species, I believe it is best to create a new law for resource management under the control of the Environment Ministry by following the example of New Zealand.

 Symposium the Law for the protection of Birds and Mammals and Hunting seen by Tama-chan

The Network to Establish o Wildlife Protection Law, in which we are involved, held a symposium on November 9th, entitled the Law for the protection

Of Birds and Mamals and Hunting Seen By A Marine Mammal, Tama-chan. In the symposium, Dolphin and Whale Action Network made a short presentation, in which we showed the video footage from the actual scenes of dolphin captures and made appeal about the tragic situation of dolphins and whales to the audience including diet members and officers in charge in the Environment Ministry. In the opening address, a diet member, Ms. Emi Iwasa, talked about dugongs, of which topic she had made a presentation at the Johannesburg environmental summit as well. Mr. Shinichi Hayama, who made a keynote speech, and Mr. Tsuyoshi Ishinazaka from Hokkaido University, who reported on the Steller's sea lion, both talked on the topic of marine mammals. So, the symposium looked as if it was set for the declaration of the rights of marine mammals.

Dolphins and whales have always been put aside from the mainstream of nature conservation movement in Japan. This symposium can be regarded as a witness to our success in putting the protection of dolphins and whales onto the mainstream in full force. We would like to continue our effort to appeal for the protection of whales and dolphins to as many people as possible.