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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Species Spotlight: FIN

Balaenoptera physalus

Fin Whale - Balaenoptera physalus

Being second only in size to the Blue whale the Fin whale made an obvious high yield target for the whaling community. The Fin whale is probably the most hunted species of whale. The IUCN still record it as endangered and although still protected by the moratorium catch limit of zero, it is still a highly prized "scientific research" catch.

It's huge size easily dwarfs the whaling nations regular take of Minke whales meaning that the capture of one Fin whale would provide meat equivalent to seven Minke whales. With such a catch the seasons quota for whale meat can be harvested quickly and more efficiently.

The Fin whale can be identified by its unusual asymmetric colouring around its jaw. On the fight hand side the jaw is mostly white, whilst the left is light blue.

The Fin whale is the fastest of all the baleen whales and can dive deeper than any other whale species. Swimming at up to 30 miles per hour and diving to 1800 feet in hunt of fish and squid. Fin whales feed on a variety of planktonic animals as well as crustaceans, squid and fish.

IUCN Red List Page:

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Gloomy Debate on Greedy Whaling

By Kurasawa Nanami, Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network (IKAN)
From The Japan Observer, Vol.7 No.7 (July 2001)

Is the debate about whaling really a conflict of interests between Japan and Western countries?

DolphinEvery year when the IWC meeting comes to a close, we are bombarded with news articles about whaling in Japan. Media reports come mainly from the government controlled "industry of information," so in this season we have no choice but to deal with those one-sided or highly biased reports.

Generally the controversy on whaling is accepted as a conflict of interests between Japan and Western countries. Advocates of whaling argue that the conflict is between Japanese, who are trying to maintain (what they claim to be) a cultural tradition, and Westerners, who not only lack understanding of other cultures but also impose their cultural values on others.

On the other side, there are arguments that the Japanese are "environmental predators," behaving like a "gang of thugs," who continue environmental degradation for the sake of optimal use, and bully domestic environmental and conservation groups into "keeping silent" on the issue.

There are also arguments on whether the habit of eating whale meat is really a tradition, and about whether the government should allow or legitimize anything that be called a "tradition." However, it must be understood that the labelling of Japanese as "environmental predators," or other not-so-endearing terms, is certainly making the problem worse. There is a not miniscule percentage of Japanese who say, "the conservation of whales is going too far," or "the Western nations are imposing their cultural values on us" when faced with the high-handed attitudes of the anti-whaling advocates.

It is clear that it is the choice of the Japanese people that is crucial in solving the problem of whaling (and dolphin hunting). Due to this we have to shift the focus of discussion from "Conflicts between Japan and anti-whaling Westerners "to "Conflicts between the advocates of industrial development and exploitation, and the advocates of environmental protection." From this perspective, we need to pave the way for a fair discussion within our own country.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The Long Game

On a previous posting "Whaling isn't about profits" it appears there's a lot more to it that trying to make a simple statement declaring that Japan are making huge losses year on year and there must be some other method to their madness.

Whale Fluke

Whilst whaling today isn't profitable there's an awful lot of history that has in the past demonstrated that whaling is in fact a highly profitable industry. The research whaling of today surely isn't profitable, and the development of sustainable commercial whaling may also prove unprofitable, but the return to full scale commercial whaling could prove to be the ultimate aim and where the profit is at.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Whales Eat "Some" of the Fish

It's been my pleasure over the past week to be conversing my email with Mr. Sidney Holt. Following a response to a previous posting here, he was kind enough to leave a comment and even more gracious to actually reply to my email questioning him further.

Now, being only a fresh face in the world of whaling I'll confess the name Sidney Holt had not rang any bells with me. Following his initial comment I did some research and find myself awed by having encountered someone of such lofty and academic status within the whaling world, and even more pleased that he has taken the time to converse with me.

Sidney's profile on the nature network:
"I  am a biologist, specialised in fish and marine mammals population dynamics and management of fisheries and whaling. I am retired, with no specific connection with government of academic institutions now, but many informal contacts with NGOs and some government and UN agencies. My interests and activities are global in extent and I am currently especially interested in the history of the above subjects and activities."
Having a common interest Sidney has furnished me with a number of his papers and they make excellent reading. His works that are in the public domain in regard to whaling are without doubt highly relevant and very well supported by other such scientific materials by his peers.

Sidney has kindly allowed me to quote and publish his public works which over the coming weeks I am bound to do, because it is a veritable gold mine of information.

Initially I thought I'd expand upon the original posting I made "Who Eats All the Fish?" by adding some further information from Sidney.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

So What’s the Deal About Whales?

Killer Whales - Orcinus Orca

There are many, many good causes to be had. All of them needing support or financial assistance, many of them fully justified in their needs and poorly recognised for their efforts. You can find worthy causes closer to home locally, domestically and even internationally.

So what makes whales so special?

Friday, 4 September 2009

Do People Really Eat That???

PDF FileWhat's more to the point is what the Japanese government allows you to eat when it knows what's in it. Why do they turn a blind eye?
Over the last decade, there have been many independent assessments of the levels of toxic chemicals present in cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) products in Japan. Peer reviewed scientific papers have revealed dolphin meat with mercury levels several hundred times higher than government recommended levels.

The contaminants in cetaceans occur primarily because of their position in the food web. They are an apex predator. This means they eat other members of their food web but are generally speaking, not in turn eaten by any other member of it.

Their consumption of fish and lower members of the food web in such high quantities means that whatever small contaminants effect their prey, are then digested in huge quantities. Pollutants from fertilizers, pesticides and combustion of fossil fuels all impact on the prey of these apex predators, and in turn are absorbed into their muscles, organs and fatty tissues.

The attached report serves as scientific evidence to support the conclusion that cetacean meat is not only harmful, but down right dangerous to human health. It also demonstrates that whilst the Japanese government have regulations in regard to contaminant levels in their food, they are disregarding them when it comes to whale and dolphin meat!

You only have to Google Minamata to understand that Japan really, really should know better.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Denmark's Aboriginal Whaling

Denmark's bid for an increase in it's Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) lures the IWC into setting a very dangerous precedent. The Dane's produced and made a last minute submission to the IWC technical committee giving them insufficient time to fairly assess it.

Humpback Breaching

A similar submission for the increase in quota was rejected the previous year.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Cashing In By Selling Out

What price your morals?

For many years Japan has been "buying" votes to support its return to commercial whaling. It's easily done when you consider every member of the IWC has only one vote and some of the poorer nations can achieve rich rewards by signing onto Japan's party line.

Humpback Mother and CalfIt comes as no surprise that smaller nations can be encouraged to join the IWC, even though they have no history of whaling - or even any of their own future plans for whaling. All it takes is an overseas fisheries grant to fill their coffers, a handshake from a Japanese official and another consolidated vote joins the support of the pro-whaling nations.

What does come as a surprise is when member states that signed up during the initial membership of the IWC as conservationists, vocally supporting the ant-whaling line, suddenly change their stance and begin voting with Japan.

St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines signed up for five years as anti-whaling advocates. But five years later, and after an invited guest visit to Tokyo to "review the economic relations between Japan and their respective countries and urging Japanese aid and investment." they suddenly change sides.

Looking at the balance sheet it can be seen that each country benefited from a US$2.5 Million fisheries grant and since have taken between US$30 and US$40 Million in grant aid from the Japanese since.

The contempt Japan holds for the IWC is blatantly apparent when senior officials like Masayuki Komatsu see nothing wrong in using aid to induce the support of such nations by funding them "to get an appreciation of Japan's position."

Japan continues to buy votes from countries, urging them to join the IWC and support their pro-whaling stance.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Whale Index

Suborder Mysticeti
(Baleen Whales Or Mysticetes)
Family Balaenidae
Balaena mysticetus
Bowhead Whale
Eubalaena australis
Southern Right Whale
Eubalaena glacialis
North Atlantic Right Whale
Eubalaena japonica
North Pacific Right Whale
Family Neobalaenidae
Caperea marginata
Pygmy Right Whale
Family Eschrichtiidae
Eschrichtius robustus
Gray Whale
Family Balaenopteridae
Balaenoptera acutorostrata
Common Minke Whale
Balaenoptera bonaerensis
Antarctic Minke Whale
Balaenoptera borealis
Sei Whale
Balaenoptera brydei
Bryde's Whale
Balaenoptera edeni
Eden's Whale
Balaenoptera musculus
Blue Whale
Balaenoptera omurai
Omura's Whale
Balaenoptera physalus
Fin Whale
Megaptera novaeangliae
Humpback Whale

Whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is ILLEGAL

Harpoon Vessel - Yushin MaruNow that there can finally be no question about the fact that the actions of the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Australian Federal Courts have ruled that the Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha is breaking the law by whaling in Australian territory.
The Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha has a permit from the Japanese government to kill up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales in Antarctica this summer. Based on records of previous hunts, some 90 percent of these whales will be killed in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, the Humane Society said.
So what precisley are the Japanese guilty of?
The company's offenses are having "killed, injured, taken and interfered with Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) and fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and injured, taken and interfered with humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Australian Whale Sanctuary..."
This landmark ruling proves without a doubt that the Japanese are committing an offence by continuing to operate in the whale sanctuary. Wriggle as they must, the Japanese argue that they do no recognise the sovereignty of the Antarctic waters, the fact remains they have been found guilty in a court of law.

Whilst Sea Shepherd are often pilloried for their direct action in regard to defending whales this ruling goes to demonstrate that their enforcement of the law can no longer be questioned. Sea Shepherd's harassment and interference of the Japanese whaling fleets contempt of Australian authority is the only act of law enforcement within the whale sanctuary.