Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Goodbye to Moby Dick?

By Aussiegirl

That sea-beast Leviathan, which God of all his works Created hugest that swim the ocean-stream. Thus Milton described the whale in Paradise Lost, but even the hugest of all sea creatures cannot prevail against the cunning of the Japanese and others. Save all those documentaries on the whale, they may eventually be all that is left of those magnificent leviathans, with their haunting and echoing calls that stir us so.
Independent Online Edition > Environment

The great betrayal: Pro-hunting Japanese seize control of whaling commission.

Through a lengthy, covert operation, Japan is poised to seize control of whale hunting - and that spells disaster for the endangered mammal.

The environmental movement is facing one of its biggest-ever reverses, over one of its most cherished causes: Save The Whale.

In a remarkable diplomatic coup, Japan, the leading pro-whaling nation, is poised to seize control of whaling's regulatory body, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and so hasten the return of commercial whale hunting, which has been officially banned worldwide for the past 20 years.

While the world has been looking the other way, the Japanese have spent nearly a decade and many millions of dollars building up a voting majority in the IWC, by buying the votes of small member states with substantial foreign aid packages.

Their aim is to reverse the moratorium on commercial whaling brought in by the IWC in 1986 as a result of the long Save The Whale campaign by Greenpeace and other environmental pressure groups.

This has always been seen as of one of the environment movement's greatest success stories.

But anyone who opposes killing the great whales, or who thought that the main battle against the harpooners had been won, is in for a nasty surprise when at the IWC meeting in the West Indies, two months from now, this new majority is likely to become clear, and to be exercised for the first time. It will be a huge propaganda victory for the Japanese and the other nations determined to continue whale hunting, principally Norway and Iceland.
Although the Japanese have always defiantly refused to accept the international whaling ban, despite world opinion, it was not until about 1998 that they set out on a deliberate course to take control of the institution which brought it in. [...]

They did so by a form of entryism - encouraging small, poor countries to join the IWC, most of which had no previous whaling tradition at all, and some of which - such as Mali and Mongolia - did not even have a coastline. In return, the new IWC members were given multimillion-dollar aid packages. [...]

For small, often desperately poor nations, these are sizeable and very tempting sums. [...]

Despite the pretence of killing the animals for research, most of the meat is sold commercially.

In addition to this main article about resuming whale hunting, there is also an accompanying article entitled
So why, exactly, is Tokyo so keen on whale hunting? Here are a few excerpts:

Ask a Japanese person under 40 how much whale they consume and you're likely to get a blank look. Most would no more go out of their way to eat whale than a Londoner would to eat jellied eel.

Consumption was falling even before the 1986 moratorium on commercial hunting. Today, the Japanese eat 40 times more beef-burger than whale, says Greenpeace; only 1 per cent of Japanese eat whale meat regularly.

For most Japanese, the debate provokes more yawns than table-thumping, although some middle-aged Japanese wax nostalgic about eating whale after the war, when other protein was scarce.

Why, then, has Tokyo spent two decades pushing for an end to the ban in the face of resistance from conservationists and at huge cost to its international standing? The answer has more to do with politics than culture or economics. Many Japanese are bewildered by what they consider Western sentimentality, and hypocrisy, about whale-eating. [...]

Mr Moronuki's tone of wounded national pride hints at the real engine behind the whale campaign. After decades in the diplomatic and military shadow of the US, Japan's nationalists feel this is one area where they can make some noise. Besides, if they back down on whales, restrictions on other marine resources may follow, including that beloved staple, tuna.

Japan's whaling "research fleet" is supported by nationalist politicians, mainly within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. This lobby champions the tradition of whale hunting in a handful of fishing communities, and has spent billions of yen in an effort to reverse the 1986 ban.


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