Thursday, January 3, 2013

What To Be Gained?

The dire state of Japan's whaling industry has been highlighted recently in a Greenpeace analysis.
It shows the nasty Nippon whalers sell so little whale meat they are almost wholly dependent on taxpayer help! Sadly, many Japanese have no idea of the financial support they're getting. The industry has dug deep into government subsidy schemes to prop up its fortunes and set up its vital factory ship Nisshin Maru to run for another decade.
And with the return to power of Liberal Democratic Party leader, Shinzo Abe, as next prime minister of Japan, observers see a strengthened pro-whaling lobby in Tokyo (Shinzo Abe's own electoral base was the whalers' port of Shimonoseki).
Prior the (very late) start to this year's Antarctic whaling season, Nisshin Maru underwent a partial refit to increase its fuel efficiency, cut crew and add a new processing line to produce ''retail-sized'' 1kg packages of whale meat, instead of 15kg wholesale packs.
Funding for this refit was obtained by the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) under the Profitable Fisheries Support Project, a Fisheries Agency of Japan scheme designed to help fishermen modernise. In return, ICR has undertaken to bring home about 2400 tonnes of whale meat each year - that's about 300 Antarctic minke whales, and 200 from the North Pacific.
Having received nearly $30 million from a government tsunami relief fund last year, the whaling industry has also secured government guarantees to cover 90% of its operating losses for the next three years.
Greenpeace says the existing subsidies, deficit guarantee and modernisation funds for Nisshin Maru mean the industry has effectively been nationalised. And for what? In recent years, despite much lower catches due to pressure by Sea Shepherd, the Japanese frozen whale meat stockpile has remained little changed at about 5000 tonnes - that's two years' worth of consumption.
The ICR recently announced it would try to increase sales by direct-selling to restaurants and consumers, targeting middle-aged and elderly nostalgic whale meat-eaters.
[with thanks to Andrew Darby, NorthWest Star]

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