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Japan's Opening Statement At Whaling Commission

Opening Statement Of Japan 56th Annual Meeting International Whaling Commission

The Government of Japan expresses its appreciation to the Government of Italy for hosting the 56th Annual Meeting of the IWC.


The Scientific Committee report clearly shows that many species of whales are recovering and have recovered. It also shows that science allows sustainable harvest of abundant species of whales without depleting their stocks. Modern enforcement and monitoring measures will prevent the repetition of the past over-harvesting. However, the IWC has failed, for a long period of time, to meet its objective as provided by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW); that is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.

Japan believes that the outcomes of this year’s meeting is particularly important for the future of the IWC because we all recognize a great opportunity to make breakthrough to long-standing impasse, thus, for Japan, substantial progress towards the resumption of sustainable and regulated whaling should be possible. The general public as well as parliamentarians in Japan have come to the end of their patience on this matter and demand that the Japanese Government consider all options to resume sustainable whaling if the IWC has not implemented a reasonable Revised Management Scheme (RMS) by the 57th Annual Meeting next year. We will contribute to a productive meeting that will bring the work of this Commission back to its task mandated by the ICRW.

Extreme Anti-Whaling Position Prevents the Completion of RMS

Japan’s commitment to secure the implementation of a reasonable RMS is demonstrated by the substantial compromises we have made. The Chairman’s initiative on this matter is a way forward and we are pleased that the Commission will finally substantively address the matter of ending the moratorium as part of this initiative. We believe that it is now time for IWC members with extreme anti-whaling positions to also make compromise in order to complete and implement the RMS. The total protection of all whales – irrespective of their stock status – is contradictory to the ICRW and to the cultural values of people of Japan and other countries that view whales as a valuable food resource. In this regard, we reiterate Japan’s view that Paragraph 10(e) of the Schedule is no longer in force due to its actual wording (“…and by 1990 at the latest…”) and procrastination in completing and implementing the RMS for the resumption of commercial whaling on a sustainable basis. Scientific findings that show many whale stocks are abundant together with respect for cultural differences must be the basis for the work of this Commission.


As Commissioners and delegates are aware, it is the view of Japan that the establishment of the Conservation Committee at the 55th Annual Meeting was an inappropriate attempt to distort the fundamental purpose of the ICRW by a resolution requiring only a simple majority vote. This was clearly demonstrated during that meeting when proponents refused to include the concept of “sustainable use”, which is unequivocally supported by the ICRW, into the text of the resolution. Twenty IWC members opposed the establishment of the Conservation Committee and, for this reason; Japan did not participate in the work of this Committee. We believe that unless there is a clear and visible change to the Committee’s structure to include the concept of “sustainable use”, its existence will continue to exacerbate the polarized situation within the IWC and detract from our most urgent task of bringing a return to regulated and sustainable whaling.


For the past 16 years the Government of Japan has requested an “interim relief allocation” of minke whales for Japan’s small-type coastal whaling communities to alleviate hardships caused by the moratorium on commercial whaling. Despite assurances that the Commission would work expeditiously to alleviate the severe impacts of the moratorium on these four communities, our requests have continued to be rejected by the Commission. Japan’s small-type whaling communities continue to hurt economically, socially and culturally from the cessation in whaling. All of the conditions required for the resumption of a sustainable take of whales in Japanese coastal waters are in place. We therefore seek support for our proposals for the sustainable utilization of abundant minke and Bryde’s whales with scientifically calculated harvest limits and an adequate enforcement and monitoring scheme. We believe this will demonstrate Japan’s ability to strictly regulate whaling and to implement inspection and observation measures in a transparent manner similar to that envisioned under an RMS.


Japan maintains its position that the management of all marine living resources must be based on scientific findings. Article V of the ICRW requires that the Convention’s regulations be “based on scientific findings”. The Scientific Committee has confirmed that Japan’s whale research programs are providing valuable information. In order to improve the statistical quality of data and results, we will increase the take of whales under our Article VIII research program in the North Pacific from this year. We will also continue our whale research activities in the Antarctic. The number of whales taken in our research programs is small compared to the stock abundance and therefore the effects on the stocks will be negligible.

Further, Japan’s research programs support and promote the IWC’s unanimous decision in 2001 to make the study of interactions between whales and fisheries a matter of priority. They also support the agreement of the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries to study this matter and the commitments of the Johannesburg Plan adopted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development concerning the implementation of ecosystem approaches to fisheries management. Many of the whale stocks around Japan are increasing and consuming huge quantities of at least 10 species of fish that are caught by our fishermen. We are committed to continuing our research to obtain data that will provide the basis for the application of multi-species and ecosystem models to improve fisheries management. Resolutions against Japan’s whale research programs are anti-science, contrary to the broadly accepted need to adopt ecosystem approaches to the management of marine living resources and an unwelcome intrusion against the rights of all contracting Parties under the ICRW.


Japan will oppose continuation of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary and the establishment of new sanctuaries because they are without scientific justification and apply “irrespective of the conservation status of whale stocks”, contrary to Article V of the ICRW and to the principle of sustainable use of resources that is the world standard. Article V of the ICRW, which sets out the requirements for the Commission’s regulations, states that such regulations “shall be based on scientific findings”. The Southern Ocean Sanctuary was adopted by the Commission in 1994 without advice from the Scientific Committee that such measure was required for conservation purposes. We are pleased to see that outside experts invited to participate in the work of the Scientific Committee this year have also said that “Overall, the SOS [Southern Ocean Sanctuary] – and IWC sanctuaries in general – are not ecologically justified” and that “… the SOS is more prohibitive than precautionary.”

Sanctuaries without scientific basis have no place within the IWC. This year, the SOS was reviewed by external experts in the context of Marne Protected Areas (MPAs) and, as is the case for the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, sanctuaries proposed for the South Pacific and the South Atlantic do not conform to the established principles of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or reserve design. A fundamental change in the IWC’s concept of sanctuaries is therefore required in order to justify the establishment of sanctuaries as MPAs. We consider that the RMP developed by the Scientific Committee fully addresses the precautionary aspects of MPA theory. Therefore, IWC Sanctuaries should be abolished and RMP should be implemented.


Japan is also concerned that the IWC is wasting time and valuable resources on issues which are outside of the competence of the IWC and/or non-essential while leaving essential issues, such as proper management of whale stocks, unsolved. Japan will therefore propose that the current agenda for the IWC meeting be revised by deleting a number of issues that are not within the mandate of the Commission as provided by the ICRW. These include: whale-watching, whale killing methods and associated welfare issues, health issues and small cetaceans. In addition, Japan is convinced that broadening the IWC membership to include additional developing nations will help to normalize its functioning. For this reason we are committed to maintaining a membership fee structure for the IWC that is fair and equitable for developing countries. We also believe that the IWC must provide simultaneous interpretation for its growing non-English speaking membership.

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