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An example of the disturbing and misleading propaganda employed by Japanese whaling interests. In the above illustration presented in a document to Kiribati fisheries officials while attending meetings in Japan, the whale is portrayed as taking an important food resource, fish, away from humans. This tactic to meant to scare smaller nations into thinking that the whale is taking away their important commercial stock. In fact, the majority of baleen, or filter feeding whales consume mainly krill or plankton - a marine resource humans do not even harvest as a food source.
Photo: Taken from a report presented to the Kiribati Fisheries from the Institute for Cetacean Research in Japan

February 17, 2001
The Politics of Whales
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Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the western pacific.

When we left Kiribati a week ago, there were a about thirty large crates on the dock, addressed to Kiribati Fisheries from "Japan Aid"-obviously a gift to Kiribati from Japan to help them develop their fisheries. In addition, there is a new commercial fishing market being built on the Kiribati dock to which these crates were destined. This is a familiar pattern: Japan makes a major investment in the fisheries of some small country like Kiribati, then gets that country to support them in the international whaling commission. They have done this in at least six island nations of the Caribbean. It is usually referred to as "Vote Buying." As a result, our concern for the whales that we have seen in Kiribati waters is escalating. Particularly in light of the resumption of sperm whale hunting by Japan-a hunt Japan tries to justify by claiming it is done for scientific purposes only (which is entirely unsupported). At the moment, whaling in Pacific waters is limited, although an increase in the near future is imminent which may threaten the very Kiribati whales we have been studying.

The 52nd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) failed to obtain the three-quarters majority vote required to extend the existing Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary from the Antarctic to the equator. The critical vote was effectively blocked by Japan which was supported by Norway-the second biggest whaling nation-and six Caribbean nations., Because the vast majority of IWC nations (indeed, the majority of all nations) opposes a resumption of whaling, an extension of the sanctuary will be proposed again this year. Unfortunately, however, the whaling nations seem to be inching closer to success in their goal-the resumption of full-scale commercial whaling.

The territorial waters that surround island nations, are much greater in area than the land area of such nations. However, their waters have often only come under exploitation relatively recently, and are now attracting large commercial fishing fleets from developed nations. The harvests awaiting such fishing vessels, and the immense factory or mother ships that tend them, are huge, both in size and in monetary value.

Developed nations that offer large sums to island nations for the right to fish in their waters, usually have already decimated the fish stocks in their own waters to the point where fishing there is no longer commercially viable. For many Pacific nations like Kiribati, the income received from the sale of fishing licenses to wealthier countries is irresistible. However, accepting it is usually a grave error as the real wealth (tied up in the catch and not the license fees) is exported out of the host country and in the end benefits only an elite handful of people. This pattern has occurred in so many small nations and has been so clearly disastrous to their economies and fish stocks, that we fear greatly for the future of the Kiribati.

At a recent Fisheries meeting in Japan (JARPN II-in August and September 2000) the Japanese Fisheries Agency gave delegates from all nations written material and pictures depicting whales as serious food competitors of squid and blue-fin tuna. The information was compiled by the Fisheries Agency of the Government of Japan, and included photographs of the stomach contents of a dead sperm whale, containing a large quantity of squid.

From our discussions with members of the fisheries department in Kiribati, it is clear that Kiribati is trying to start a commercial squid fishery in its territorial waters. A Kiribati Fisheries officer who was present at the meeting in Japan, (JARPN II) implied that he is concerned that Kiribati's potentially profitable squid fishery may be threatened by the presence of sperm whales. During our time in Kiribati, both Government Officials and Fisheries employees made reference to whales competing with humans for fish, as well as to the potential Japanese interest in whaling in their territorial waters. This is a direct result of the propaganda by whaling nations. It is disturbing because it is so misleading. The annual production of squid on which sperm whales are known to feed, has been estimated to be roughly equal to the total weight of all fish caught by human fishers each year. However, there are many species of squid, and people have yet to succeed in making a viable commercial catch of the squid species on which the whales principally feed. In fact, we cannot even sample those species, except by removing them from the stomachs of whales. It would be hard, therefore, to imagine a major predator that competes less with humans for the squid species that interest us than sperm whales do.

Crates line the dock of Betio Harbor. They are gifts from the Japanese Government to help develop the Kiribati fisheries.
Photo: Chris Johnson

As for bluefin tuna: this is a species that hunts much faster and smaller fish than the fish on which sperm whales feed. It is not the competition from whales that has turned Bluefin tuna into an endangered species, it is the Japanese sushi market which pays a higher price for bluefin tuna than for any other fish. This is what has brought bluefin tuna to the brink of extinction. It is outrageous that the Japanese Fisheries department is spreading such an entirely unsupported and unsupportable rumor.

Humans have in a relatively short period of time, depleted the ocean of its abundance of creatures. Building larger, faster ships, outfitted with more sophisticated tracking equipment to locate and scoop up fish that are scattered ever wider and of which there are less and less. Whales have co-existed with bluefin tuna and squid for millions of years. It is we not the whales that deplete the oceans of its natural resources and then use other animals such as whales, to say nothing of seals, and sea lions as scapegoats for our handiwork.


> Watch an excerpt of the video report on the Kiribati leg of the Voyage of the Odyssey produced for the President and Government of Kiribati.
Real Video   56k   200k

> Read the letter by Dr. Roger Payne to the President of Kiribati to urge the creation of legislation to protect whales within Kiribati.

Log by Roger Payne & Genevieve Johnson

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