Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yearning For The Yen

Forget the rotten butter bombs, international protests, hi-tech speedboats...what may ultimately end the Japanese whaling industry is money.
For many years Sea Shepherd has harassed the whaling fleet, aiming to reduce their catch and bleed their bank accounts dry. Under the guise of “research”, the whaling industry has enjoyed massive government subsidies to help make up for a declining market. The last few years however have not been kind, especially with SS on their tails. Worse for wear, the Japanese whaling industry has received subsidies since 1998 of US$164-million of taxpayers' money.
Key findings from a report "Sink Or Swim: The Economics Of Whaling Today" (WWF, 2009):
+Sales of whale meat, blubber and other products have made losses for almost all of the last 20 years. Overall sales of whaling by-products have lost US$223-million since 1988.
+2008/09, the industry needed US$12-million subsidy to break even.
+Overall subsidies since 1988 total $164-million.
+Wholesale prices of whale meat per kg in Japan have been falling since 1994, from just over US$30/kg (1994) to US$16.4/kg (2006).
+The average amount of whale products stockpiled in the main cold-stores (about 40% of total Japanese refrigeration capacity) increased from around 1500 tonnes (1997) to around 4000 tonnes in recent years (since 2005).
[PS: 05 Jan.2011 - now 6,000+ tonnes/6 million+ kg: ABC News]
The industry costs Japan heavily, and the irony is that large-scale whalehunting has never been a traditional Japanese activity. Eating whalemeat on a big scale was only introduced post-WWII as a short-term measure: it is nostalgic "baby-boomers" in power seats that hurt their own country, by perpetuating this myth.
Japan suffers damage to it's global image, as more countries denounce its dogmatic whaling stance. Australia, the Netherlands, NZ, and USA issued a joint statement this month, confirming their combined opposition to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Australia is taking Japan to the International Court of Justice in an effort to stop the practice altogether (sadly NZ doesn't have the guts to join Oz's efforts, nor will it send a naval vessel down to Antarctica - becoz it's new tubs are still undergoing sea trials... and are riddled with problems!). Japan views such legal moves and protest actions as racist attacks on its very essence.
Meanwhile as of July 2011, new regulations from the IMO (UN International Maritime Org.) will make it illegal for the Nisshin Maru factory ship to operate below 60° south... the area where all the Japanese whaling is done. The new rules prohibit ships using heavy oil in the Antarctic Treaty System area, because of the harm a spill would cause. Furthermore, the IMO Guidelines For Ships Operating In Ice-Covered Waters put requirements on safety and hull-strength which the Nisshin Maru does not fulfill.
Weapon of Mass Destruction
Adhering to rules and regulations has never been the practice of the whalers, and I suspect they would drag out re-trials following any legal losses for years to come, and search for loopholes in the IMO ruling, while in the meantime continuing to hunt.
The bottom line though is...the money. The whaling fleet has lost a third of its hunting season this year, so will again be reliant on that financial safety net to survive. But sooner rather than later the Japanese government (perhaps under pressure from its taxpayers) will have to say: enough is enough.

No comments: