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The Government of Japan position 54th IWC Meeting

The Government of Japan position
54th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission

Japan’s primary interest is to bring the work of the International Whaling Commission back to the task mandated by its parent treaty, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). The ICRW defines its purpose as “a convention to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.” As required by the ICRW, regulations with respect to the conservation and utilization of whale resources must be based on scientific findings.

Continuation of the moratorium on commercial whaling, particularly in light of the adoption of the Revised Management Procedure and the robust status of some whale stocks, is contrary to the object and purpose of the ICRW. The legal integrity of the IWC and its credibility as a resource management body must be reinstated by observing the letter and spirit of the Convention. Respect for cultural differences must also be properly taken into account.

Completion of the RMS and the resumption of whaling
Japan has been working vigorously towards the immediate completion of the Revised Management Scheme (RMS) and the resumption of commercial whaling on abundant stocks. In 1994 the IWC adopted a risk averse method for calculating catch quotas (Revised Management Procedure) as recommended by its Scientific Committee however, the IWC has still not implemented the procedure while it works to complete an inspection and control scheme for whaling operations as a part of the RMS.

With regard to the completion of the inspection and observations scheme (and therefore the RMS) the major problem has been that the anti-whaling countries have been insisting on an excessively burdensome and expensive scheme, and have for the past 8 years continuously insisted on the addition of new elements, including some that are clearly outside the competence of the IWC (for example, monitoring of domestic markets and animal welfare issues), to the scheme as part of their strategy to prevent a resumption of whaling even on abundant, non-endangered stocks.

The early completion of the RMS is a very important matter, which will determine the future of the IWC. All of the contracting parties have an obligation to comply with the provisions of the ICRW. The ICRW provides for the sustainable utilization of whale stocks that are abundant based upon scientific findings.

Japan has made a serious commitment and substantial compromises in order to secure the early implementation of a reasonable RMS that reflects the reality of whaling operations and is practical to implement, paid for by all members of the Commission and limited in scope to the mandate of the Commission as defined by the terms of the of the ICRW. Completion of the RMS must be based on the understanding that lifting the moratorium is an integral part of implementation of the RMS. It is now time for other members of the IWC to also compromise in order to complete and implement the RMS.

Japan’s whale research programs
Japan has two whale research programs, one in the Antarctic that began in 1987 in response to claims by a number of members of the IWC that the scientific information was insufficient to properly manage whale stocks. This, and the IWC’s Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research (SOWER) are the only long-term research programs on whales in the Antarctic that are providing valuable information related to whales and the Antarctic ecosystem.

The other research program is carried out in the western North Pacific. This was originally a five-year program that began in 1994. Phase II of this program (JARPN II) began in August 2000. Based on the success of the two-year feasibility study and increasingly strong support from international fisheries organizations, including FAO, for research to improve multi-species approaches to management, Japan is convinced that it should start JARPN II as a full-scale research program from 2002. The Government of Japan has submitted a research plan for cetacean studies in the western North Pacific to the IWC’s Scientific Committee (see separate background document).

The main part of the proposed research is to determine what whales are eating, how much and where. Data from these studies will be put into ecosystem models use to improve the management of all marine resources in the western north Pacific. The research involves both lethal and non-lethal methods. Studies of prey consumption by whales cannot be done using only non-lethal means.

Like the feasibility study for the past two years, 100 minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales and 10 sperm whales will be sampled each year in the full-scale program. In addition, 50 sei whales will be sampled each year. Further, an additional 50 minke whales will be sampled each year by small-type whaling catcher boats to cover the temporal and spatial gaps that cannot be sampled by the larger whaling research vessels. These species were chosen because they are abundant in the north Pacific. They have a large biomass, which means that they consume huge amounts of marine resources. Information on what they eat, where and how much along with oceanographic and fisheries data are required as input for ecosystem models. The effects of the research catches will be negligible.

Comments from the Scientific Committee’s review of the proposed program will be considered following this year’s meeting of the IWC and before initiation of the program.

Both the research programs involve non-lethal research including sighting surveys and biopsy sampling as well as a small take of whales for research that can not be effectively done by non-lethal means. This includes examination of ear plugs for age determination studies, reproductive organs for examination of maturation, reproductive cycles and reproductive rates, stomachs for analysis of food consumption and blubber thickness as a measure of condition.

Japan’s whale research programs are perfectly legal. Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) specifically provides for members of the IWC to issue permits for the killing of whales for research purposes. Sustainable use and proper management of all marine resources should be based on scientific findings. Indeed, Article V of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling requires that it’s regulations be “based on scientific findings”.

Cetacean/fisheries interactions
Cetacean/fisheries interactions have become a major issue worldwide. It is an important issue in the context of world food security since the estimates are that cetaceans consume 3 to 5 times the amount of marine resources harvested for human consumption. Many international fisheries organizations, including FAO’s Committee on Fisheries at its meeting earlier this year, have urged the development of multi-species management systems and further study of the issue of the relationship between marine mammals and fisheries.

For these reasons, the total protection of whales for emotional or political reasons is inappropriate. IWC’s decisions must be based on balanced scientific management and reflect the sustainable use principles of the ICRW, UNCLOS, UNCED, the Kyoto Declaration and FAO’s International Action Plans as well as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Amid rising concerns about the capacity of our food production systems, world food security, the maintenance of integrated marine ecosystems and the recognition of diverse cultures demands our attention.

Interim quota for small scale coastal whaling
Since 1986, Japan has presented documentation on the localized and small-scale nature of community-based whaling in Japan, and the socio-economic importance of whale meat production, distribution and consumption in four small coastal whaling communities. The IWC has specifically recognized the socio-economic and cultural needs of these communities and the distress to these communities, which resulted from the cessation of minke whaling and in 1993 resolved to work expeditiously to alleviate this distress. This commitment was reaffirmed by resolutions adopted at the 52nd and 53rd Annual Meetings. Japan will therefore again propose the immediate resumption of community based whaling with an interim quota of 50 minke whales as a tentative measure before implementation of the RMS.

Review of the Indian Ocean Sanctuary
The Indian Ocean Sanctuary was agreed by the Commission at its 31st Annual Meeting in 1979 and has remained in effect since that time. It will be reviewed at the 54th Annual Meeting. The Sanctuary prohibits commercial whaling irrespective of the status of whale stocks. It is important to note that the Indian Ocean Sanctuary was agreed to by the Commission, prior to the adoption of the moratorium on commercial whaling, and prior to the development of a risk-averse method for calculating sustainable catch limits for commercial hunting of baleen whales (RPM) by the Scientific Committee and its adoption by the Commission.

The Sanctuary is an inappropriate management strategy that does not provide additional or necessary protection to whales nor does it improve protection of whale habitat. Further, it does not address other anthropogenic or environmental factors. The Sanctuary impedes the conduct of scientific research and is inconsistent with the precautionary approach. The Sanctuary does not meet the requirement of the Convention that regulations be based on scientific findings. For these reasons, the Indian Ocean Sanctuary should be abolished.

Proposals for a South Pacific Sanctuary and South Atlantic Sanctuary
At the 51st Annual Meeting of the IWC, the Governments of Australia and New Zealand presented a proposal for the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. Similar to the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, the proposal is contrary to Article V (2) of the ICRW since it ignores the fact that the stock status of some of the large whale species is well above the exploitable level and since it would apply “irrespective of the conservation status of whale stocks”. Further, the proposal ignores the fact that a sanctuary is unnecessary given the IWC’s moratorium and the adoption of the risk averse RMP. The proposal also negates the principle of sustainable utilization of resources that has now become broadly accepted as the world standard. The proposal was again rejected by the Commission at its 53rd Annual Meeting. The Government of Japan will continue to strongly oppose the proposal for a South Pacific Sanctuary. For similar reasons, Japan will also strongly oppose any proposal for a sanctuary in the South Atlantic. A proposal for a South Atlantic sanctuary was defeated at the 53rd Annual Meeting.

Southern Ocean Sanctuary
The Southern Ocean Sanctuary will be reviewed by the Commission at its meeting in 2004. It was adopted by the Commission without advice from the Scientific Committee that such measure was required for conservation purposes. Establishment and continuation of the sanctuary is therefore contrary to Article V of the ICRW, which sets out the requirements for the Commission’s regulations including that such regulations “shall be based on scientific finding”. In order to correct this situation, Japan may propose an amendment to the Schedule, the effect of which would be that the Southern Ocean Sanctuary apply only on the advice of the Scientific Committee that it was required for conservation purposes.

Secret Ballot
Since 1997, Japan has proposed that the IWC institute a provision for the use of secret ballots as part of its voting system. These proposals were made in an attempt to protect the rights of Contracting Parties to express their views freely and according to democratic procedures without fear of coercion or reprisals. Japan is of the view that current voting procedures within the Commission not only subjugate the rights of Contracting Parties to undue pressure from other member nations or NGOs but that the current procedures unduly influence the Commission’s decisions on matters of fundamental importance. For these same reasons, the use of secret ballots for deciding substantive matters is provided for in many international commissions and organizations including the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and, The International Commission for the Southeast Atlantic Fisheries. The use of secret ballots does not conflict with the need for transparency. Transparency does not mean that the individual votes of all members must, on every occasion, be made public. A secret ballot would not prevent those members of the Commission who would wish to disclose how they voted on any issue from doing so.


For more information and interviews contact Japan’s IWC Media Office
on 0081 90 3103 5840 or 0081 80 3005 7507

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