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Support For Whaling Continues To Decline In Japan

Auckland, April 2, 2002: An independent poll released on Saturday by the Japanese national newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun shows Japanese attitudes toward whales to be significantly different than that reflected in the Government commissioned poll released two weeks ago.

The Government poll claimed that 75 percent of the Japanese people favour a return to commercial whaling under controlled conditions. The Asahi Shimbun poll in contrast shows that only 47 percent of the Japanese public agree with whale hunting. This is down by 7 percent from Asahi Shimbun's 1993 poll figure showing 53 percent of those polled supporting whale hunting. According to the current poll over one third of the Japanese public opposed whaling. (1)

Significantly, the Asahi Shimbun poll, which questioned 3000 people, reveals a shift in attitude toward supporting the protection of whales based upon a concern for damage to the marine eco- system and away from a concern that the rest of the world is bashing Japan because of its food culture. (2)

"These poll results shows that the Japanese public is not as pro- whaling as the Fisheries Agency of Japan would like to make out. In fact, the Government poll which used leading questions is just a thinly disguised public relations stunt in their campaign to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling," said Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, Pia Mancia. "What this latest poll shows is the extent to which the Government of Japan is prepared to go to push its whaling agenda, even to the point of hoodwinking its own public. However, we are pleased to see that support for whaling in Japan is continuing to decline."

This latest revelation underscores the increasingly fractious atmosphere between the Japanese Government and conservation- minded governments and environmental groups in the run up to the May meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Shimonoseki, Japan. It is expected that pro-whaling countries will follow Japan's lead in attempting to abolish existing whale sanctuaries and push for the resumption of commercial whaling. Greenpeace has accused the Fisheries Agency of Japan of buying the allegiance of developing countries through granting of Overseas Development Assistance in return for their votes at the IWC. (3)

"The Fisheries Agency has attempted to portray the whaling issue as Japan-bashing. It's not—it’s about Japan forcing back the resumption of large-scale commercial whaling of the kind that devastated so many whale populations in the past. If the Government of Japan is successful, some countries are likely to follow suit. Whales are already threatened by changes in the ocean environment. A return to whaling is the last thing the whales need," said Mancia.

Editor's Notes:

1) In the Asahi Shimbun poll 36 percent polled said that they opposed the resumption of commercial whaling. This is up from 35 percent opposed in 1993.

2) When asked why they opposed commercial whaling 21 percent said that wild animals should be protected (up by 12 percent from 9 percent in 1993). 11percent said people don't need to eat whale meat while 4 percent said they were against whaling because of Japan-bashing (down by 11 percent from 15 percent in 1993).

3) In the run-up to the 2001 IWC meeting a senior member of the Japanese delegation, Mr. Komatsu, confirmed that Japan was vote buying. In an interview with ABC TV, Australia, Mr.Komatsu admitted that Japan had to use the “tools of diplomatic communications and promises of overseas development aid to influence members of the International Whaling Commission". The Fisheries Agency of Japan’s vote buying programme is gathering momentum. At the 1993 meeting the Fisheries Agency had just five countries on their payroll. By 1999 there were seven. Japan brought one new country into the IWC in 2000 and two more in 2001. The Agency now enjoys the support of ten nations whose votes are paid for: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Guinea, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Solomon Islands, Panama and Morocco. All of these except Morocco vote with Japan on every issue. The votes of these countries, combined with those of nations like China, Korea, Norway and Russia, which vote with Japan for their own reasons mean that the Fisheries Agency is within 3 or 4 votes of having a majority in the IWC. The Fisheries Agency of Japan is believed to have stepped up its vote buying drive, concentrating on West Africa.


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