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Japan’s position on small-type coastal whaling

May 24, 2002

Japan’s position on small-type coastal whaling
and aboriginal subsistence whaling

Japan has always supported the needs of aboriginal whaling communities and did at this meeting support a quota of gray whales for Alaskan and Chukotkan peoples, a quota of fin and minke whales for Greenlanders as well as a quota of humpback whales for Bequians of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, this year Japan could not support the request by the US and the Russian Federation for a quota of bowhead whales because of the double standard of the US in applying scientific criteria and in judging needs of whaling peoples.

Japan has, for the last 15 years, been seeking an interim relief quota of 50 minke whales to satisfy the well-documented social, cultural, dietary and religious needs of its four small-type coastal whaling communities. More than 30 papers have been submitted to the IWC documenting these needs. The needs of the people from Japan’s small-type whaling communities are similar to the needs of aboriginal peoples.

In explaining its position, Japan noted that the bowhead stock is classified by the IWC as a “protection stock” and is well below the level allowed for commercial whaling. In fact, if the Commission’s formula for calculating catch quotas under its Revised Management Procedure (the proposed criteria to apply to commercial whaling) were applied, the bowhead quota for the next 30 years would be zero. The stock of minke whales in the North Pacific is agreed by the IWC Scientific Committee to be at least 25,000. The bowhead stock is only about 8,000 animals.

Even though the IWC agreed 9 years ago to work expeditiously to resolve this problem and reaffirmed this commitment 3 times since then, the United States has continued to oppose any catch of whales for these communities and the needs of Japan’s small-type coastal whaling communities have been unfairly denied.

Japan’s position is simply that there should be a fair application of criteria to judge needs and a fair application of science. However, the US has been using a double standard in steadfastly refusing to address the needs of Japan’s small-type whaling communities. Japan’s request has been reasonable but has received unfair treatment.

Japan, at IWC 54, Japan sought a solution to satisfy the demonstrated needs of Alaskan and Chukotkan people together with the needs of people of the four small-type whaling communities in Japan that have suffered as a result of the IWC’s moratorium. In discussions with the US, we came close. But in the end, the US did not agree. As a result, Japan combined the two issues in one proposal for a decision by the Commission.

However, Japan’s attempt to seek consensus was blocked by the IWC Chairman and refused by the US.

The Chair of the Commission ruled that Japan’s proposed amendment had to be dealt with separately and the US and the Russian Federation refused to include it as part of their proposal. This was a refusal to recognize small-type coastal whaling in Japan as similar to aboriginal/subsistence whaling and in these circumstances, Japan opposed the proposal from the US and the Russian Federation.

Japan had tried to seek consensus and make a substantial compromise by reducing by half its previous request and that it be only for a period of 5 years. Clearly, both the request for bowhead whales for Alaskans and Chukotkan people, as well as the request for the four small-type whaling communities in Japan, could have been accepted. However, they were refused. The outcome of the vote is clearly the responsibility of the US Government.

Japan is committed to continue its support for the needs of coastal communities and aboriginal peoples. It believes that the legitimate aspirations of Alaskan and Chukotkan aboriginal peoples, as well as the people of Japan’s four coastal communities, can all be realized in a co-operative and mutually beneficial manner. It remains committed to work constructively with all parties to that end. Japan believes that such a positive undertaking utilizing consistent, fair science in both a commercial and aboriginal whaling context, would assist to restore the normal functioning of the IWC.

ENDS

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