Why Japan Is Preparing to Battle Over Whaling – Their Other Agenda

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On the face of it, the government of Japan seems to be run by escapees from The Cuckoo’s Nest, taking their country down a path that is sure to end up in ruin, but things are not what they seem and Japan has a second agenda.
Their stance on whaling has gone from puzzling to illogical as they pump millions into the costly whaling industry, when Japan has yet to recover from the devastation of last year’s earthquake. Their government recently announced that they will give their fishermen 28 million dollars to support a renewed whaling venture into the Southern Ocean, and are considering granting the whalers 30 million more to provide protection from the protests by anti-whaling groups.

Neither side is backing down, and it could get deadly down there this year – if the Japanese whalers hurt or kill humans who just want to protect the ocean’s greatest inhabitants, then Japan is going to be seen as murderously ruthless as well as pridefully ego driven.
Why in world would Japan make such a choice? Nothing is quite like it seems and if, like Alice in Wonderland, you are ready to tumble down the rabbit hole into the crazy logic behind this, this quick summary will get you started (references at the end if you wish to learn more).
The number of whales Japan is allowed to take for food is strictly controlled by the International Whaling Commission, but the number allowed for scientific research is very loosely controlled, if at all in some cases. Japan uses this loophole to kill more whales to eat than would otherwise be allowed, to take endangered species, to kill pregnant females, and slaughter mothers with their calves.
Like many other whaling nations, Japan claims to have an aboriginal right to kill whales, but that does not extend to the Southern Ocean where Japan has been whaling only since 1987. They were supposed to conduct ‘research’ for five years, but that has been extended and number of whales they target has doubled, to just over 1000 minke, fin, and humpback whales.
They justify continued ‘research’ by repeating the same studies ad nauseum, or by doing bizarre research (such crossing whale sperm with cow embryos).
The profitability of whaling has gone down with rising fuel costs, the world is losing its appetite for eating whales, Japan has huge problems with its recovery, and already has stockpiled whale meat (some of which it gets from Iceland, also illegal). Protecting their fleet is going to be expensive, and could be disastrous.
Here is where we enter into ‘nothing is as it seems’ – Japan has both a secondary and tertiary motive for this costly, brutal, and unpopular stance: first of all, the whales down near Antarctica carry a less significant load of pollutants and radioactive contamination than their northern cousins.

Second, and this is fairly devious, Japan also has a significant fishery for krill and fish down there, and have dedicated a great body of research (by killing whales) into calculating how much each species of whale eats. They view the whales as competitors, and think that the whales they kill will allow their fishermen to increase their catch of krill and fish.

So, Japan sends both a whaling fleet which profits from killing whales, and a fishing fleet which they think will get more krill and fish because they have killed so many whales:

Growing concerns about the possible consequences of competition between marine
mammals and fisheries make this an increasingly important issue in fisheries management and
conservation in the future. For this purpose, comparative research on the seasonal, local and
annual distribution and abundance of cetaceans and their prey should be extended. This should
make it possible to develop a blanket, multi-species management plan for marine organisms that
also involves marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, porpoises and pinnipeds, in order to
allow a more realistic fisheries management strategy, aiming for both short- and long-term
sustainability of marine organisms, including marine mammals and their conservation in the
In the Antarctic, baleen whales, excluding Bryde’s whales, feed mainly on krill during
austral summer, where the krill fisheries decreased recently because of diminishing markets. Of
these species of cetaceans, the minke whales play an important role in the prey web in the
Antarctic in particular. Armstrong and Siegfried (1991) indicated that the minke whales consume
95% of the total biomass of krill that is consumed by baleen whales in the Antarctic. This study
showed that the annual crustacean consumption by minke whales was 42-64 million tons, and that
this amounted to 40-54% of total annual crustacean consumption by cetaceans in the Southern
Hemisphere. Tamura et al. (1997) estimated the prey consumption of krill by minke whales
around the Ross Sea in the Antarctic to be an order of magnitude greater than the estimated
consumption by Adelie penguins and crabeater seals. The writer considers that there was direct
competition for krill among cetaceans, seals and seabirds in austral summer in the Antarctic. Krill
fishery appears to be of minor importance now. However, any development of this fishery could
lead to increased competition between cetaceans and fisheries. For better understanding of this
phenomenon, it will be necessary to have more abundance estimates of cetaceans and quantitative information of prey species to assess the interaction between fisheries and cetaceans, especially as
– as for the Indian Ocean – there is no available abundance information for cetaceans. (FAO)

Until the early 1990s, the Soviet Union led in harvesting Antarctic krill, but following
the Republic’s break-up in 1991, Japan moved in front, accounting for
more than 50 percent of the annual catch; in some years it landed as much as
75 percent. (Krill Count)

Japan’s whale/krill/fish calculation doesn’t take into account that the whales are part of the ecosystem, and without whales to fertilize the water (supplying iron, a vital and limited nutrient), the whole food chain may collapse as environmental climate change affects the nutrient distribution as well.
Seriously Japan? What are you thinking?

And why is the rest of the world sitting by and letting Japan wreck havoc on an environment for which the Japanese have no historical or present right to do?

Japan is nearly at the top of the planet, the southern ocean is at the bottom.

Profitability of whaling http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/04/sea-shepherd-harassment-cuts-japanese-whale-catch-in-half.php
FAO ftp://ftp.fao.org/fi/document/reykjavik/pdf/09Tamura.pdf
Southern Ocean iron balance http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-2979.2010.00356.x/abstract
International Whaling Comission http://iwcoffice.org/index.htm
Krill Count http://www.krillcount.org/report/krillcount.pdf

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