Cablegate: Whaling: First National Whale Forum Pressures Goj to Resume

DE RUEHKO #3455/01 2100046
R 290046Z JUL 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Mayors from coastal-whaling municipalities have officially
pressured the GOJ to voluntarily resume commercial small-type
coastal whaling (STCW). At a July 7-8 public whale forum in
Ishinomaki City, north-eastern Japan, four mayors from whaling sites
-- Abashiri, Ayukawa, Wada and Taiji -- signed a joint declaration
urging the independent action. As a panelist for the event, FAJ's
Director for International Negotiations Joji Morishita commented
that IWC Anchorage was a success to that end, contrary to most press
reports, as it demonstrated how malfunctioning the IWC is. He
asserted that Japan would have to play a different game such as
putting the IWC into "hibernation" by sending only a small Japanese
Delegation in 2008. At a seperate venue, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs' Fisheries Office Director Ryotaro Suzuki said that he had
never heard about the hibernation idea and it would not be possible.

First Annual Whaling Municipality Conference

2. (U) Most major players in the Japanese whaling community gathered
at a July 7-8 public event entitled "National Whale Forum" in
Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan. It was the
first five annual meetings planned to promote whaling and whale food
culture co-hosted by the National Association of Whaling-Conserving
Municipalities and local governments. The conference replaced a
similar event called "Japan Traditional Whaling Community Summit,"
which had taken place since the IWC 2002 Shimonoseki Meeting. With
a subtitle "Food Variety, Moving Ishinomaki," this year's forum had
attractions such as a celebrity panel discussion, booths serving
whale meat and a whale museum open house. In part due to the good
weather, the forum attracted 19,000 participants according to a
local press report.

Background: Ayukawa As Small Whaling Community
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (U) The two-day event featured main sessions in Ayukawa on Day 1
(July 7). It is an isolated rural port that used to thrive in the
commercial whaling era and one of the four communities that have
sought to resume commercial STCW for the past two decades at the
IWC. It is currently one of the two bases for coastal whaling under
JARPN II (Second Phase of Japan's Whale Research Program under
Special Permit in the Western North Pacific) with an annual take is
60 minke whales. It also takes two non-IWC administered species,
i.e. Baird's beaked whales (2007's catch is 26) and short-finned
pilot whales (2007's catch is 36) as decided annually by the FAJ.
An official in the Ayukawa area explained that Ayukawa locals have
preferred eating minke whale to the other smaller species, whereas
Wada has focused on Baird's beaked whales. The population of
Ayukawa peaked at 8,345 in 1955, and it declined by 70 percent to
2,475 in 2007, mainly due to the contraction in in the whaling
industry after the moratorium. Whaling has been essentially
Ayukawa's lone industry, due to lack of other resources and isolated
location -- its land is barren and not good for agriculture, and it
is located more than one hour drive on a winding road from the
closest train station.

4. (U) The main sessions on Day 2 (July 8) took place in Kahoku,
northern part of Ishinomaki City, about 1.5 hour drive north of
Ayukawa. Ishinomaki City Mayor Kimio Doi explained in a panel
discussion (para 10) that he chose Kahoku as one of the two venues
as he wanted residents in the area to better understand local
whaling culture. In fact, outside Ayukawa, even Ishinomaki City
residents can be ignorant about whaling. According to a survey by
the Miyagi Prefecture Fisheries High School that was displayed at
one booth of the event, eighty-seven percent of its food science
major students did not know that there is still a whaling port in

5. (U) On Day 1, following a Buddhist memorial service for dead
whalers and whales, forum host Ishinomaki Mayor Kimio Doi asserted
whale is definitely a staple food in the area, and declared that it
was time to consolidate opinions in the Japanese whaling community
so that they can resume STCW and pass on whaling culture to the next
generation. FAJ Far Seas Fiseries Division Deputy Director Hideki

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Moronuki made a somewhat poetic remark that Japan raised its fist at
IWC Anchorage and is determined to make it resound all over so that
the world will better understand Japan's whaling culture.

Four Mayors Signed "Ishinomaki Declaration"

6. (U) A key event on Day 1 was a STCW town meeting that featured
mayors from Abashiri City in Hokkaido, Minamiboso City in Chiba
Prefecture, Taiji Town in Wakayama Prefecture and Ishinomaki City in
Miyagi Prefecture. All four municipalities have sought IWC
permission to resume commercial STCW for the past two decades.
Ishinomaki City Mayor Doi stressed that he wanted to revitalize the
city and Miyagi Prefecture at large by establishing a reputation as
a destination for whale meat gourmands. Taiji Town Mayor Kazutaka
Sangen remarked that he will cooperate with the National
Municipality Association in order to obtain a "desirable result"
within a year. In preparation for resumption of commercial whaling,
Abashiri City Mayor stated that the four coastal whaling sites would
work together to maintain whaling techniques. Minamiboso City Mayor
Yutaka Ishii explained its whaling port Wada's unique position of
taking mainly Baird's beaked whales. Then the four mayors announced
and signed the "National Whale Forum 2007 Ishinomaki Declaration."
It asserts that STCW should be treated equally as aboriginal
subsistence whaling (ASW) and the four mayors "strongly request" the
GOJ to voluntarily resume STWC.

Local Whaler: An Annucal Catch of 200 to 300 Minkes Would be Ideal
--------------------------------------------- ---------

7. (U) These sessions took place in front of a whale museum called
"Oshika Whale Land," which was open to the public free of charge for
forum's two days. In the museum lobby, a local craftsman
demonstrated the carving of whale tooth necklaces, which were sold
at prices from USD 200 to 300 each. The museum had a variety of
exhibits including a 3D theater, a 16-meter (48-feet) long whale
skeleton, an interactive whale quiz machine and samples of whale
bodies and whale embryos and fetuses preserved in formalin that were
donated by the ICR. Whalers served as guides at the museum. Asked
about whale meat consumption from the coastal portion (60 minke
whales per year in Ayukawa) of JARPN II, a guide with 35-year
whaling experience from Ayukawa stated that its meat is rapidly gone
for local consumption. He added that ideally he wants to catch 200
to 300 minke whales as STCW.

Ten Mayors Across Japan Applauded "Independent Resumption"

8. (U) At the opening ceremony of Day 2, politicians, national and
local government officials and others gave remarks. Councilor
Tadashi Taura from Nagasaki Prefecture and a member of the ruling
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) gave his impression of attending IWC
Annual Meetings. He felt that as Japan had chosen to make logical
arguments, other nations had come to better understand Japan's
position. Referring to his local situation, he asserted that whales
were not endangered given the fact that vessels often accidentally
strike whales. FAJ's Morishita referred to his 26-year career at
the FAJ that has varied in scope including salmon, trout and tuna,
and commented that the whaling issue stood out in attracting
attention from all sorts of populations - politicians, government
officials, researchers, adults and children. He added that the
issue was unique in that Japanese politicians unanimously share the
same view regardless of parties.

9. (U) After the ceremony, ten mayors from across Japan (in addition
to the four in para 6, those from Kushiro City in Hokkaido, Onagawa
Town in Miyagi Prefecture, Shimonoseki City in Yamagata Prefecture,
Muroto City in Kohchi Prefecture, Shinkamigoto Town in Nagasaki
Prefecture, and Nago City in Okinawa Prefecture) convened a meeting
onstage in which each gave a presentation on his region's whaling
culture. Kushiro City Mayor Yoshitaka Ito reported that his city
caught the most whales from 1951 to 1961. It has conducted whale
culture events such as a whale food contest by professional chefs.
Smaller towns such as Taiji and Shinkamigoto voiced the need for
commercial whaling to increase employment. Shimonoseki City Mayor
Kiyoshi Ejima talked about his city's role as the whaling base for
the Antarctic hunt and a distribution center of whale products in
Western Japan. Finally, all applauded Ishinomaki Mayor Doi's
announcement that he was determined to do his best, starting with

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clearly communicating the Ishinomaki Declaration to the GOJ and
political parties.

FAJ Morishita: Put IWC Into "Hibernation"

10. (U) The ten-mayor meeting was followed by a panel discussion
that featured actor Bunta Sugawara, FAJ's Morishita, Minoru Kimura,
Chair of the Miyagi Prefecture Federation of Fisheries Associations,
and a whale cuisine specialist Mieko Senda and Isinomaki City Mayor
Doi. The discussion was moderated by Hidehiro Kato, Professor of
marine animals at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and
Technology. A 400-capacity auditorium over-flowed with young and
old, men and women. The crowd puller was 73-year-old Sugawara, who
has appeared in more than 250 Japanese movies mostly as an outlaw
character. Originally from Miyagi Prefecture, he has also
frequently appeared in whale-related events. Sugawara recounted an
NHK (Japan's public broadcast network) documentary aired in December
2006 in which he was on-board a JARPAN II research whaling vessel
for two weeks. He argued that Japan should first focus on resuming
STCW, and then expand whaling in the Antarctic when the Japanese
local economy is completely revitalized.

11. (U) In response, Morishita stated that the GOJ has focused on
STCW for the past several. He asserted that IWC Anchorage was a
success and a step forward to that end, as it clearly showed that
the IWC has been malfunctioning. This was vital for the GOJ to
announce that Japan would resume STCW. He added that now that even
such an "outstanding" STWC proposal for IWC Anchorage was rejected,
Japan will have to play a different game from the IWC. Morishita
recounted that even the U.S. panicked when Japan stated "we will not
rely on the IWC anymore." Asked if Japan will withdraw from the
IWC, Morishita noted that those who could not agree with the
Convention should get out, and therefore Japan had no reason to do
that. He continued that he would rather put the IWC into
"hibernation." One way would be sending a small Japanese Delegation
to the IWC in 2008. Sugawara responded that the GOJ still seemed
wishy-washy, and said that Democratic Party of Japan's head Ichiro
Ozawa may make a drastic decision if he comes into power.


12. (SBU) One aspect of the "kakusa," or growing social inequality,
that has been a political topic in Japan, has been the widening
rural-urban income gap. STCW is certainly an issue that some
politicians would take up as a selling point to help revitalize
small whaling communities. While the "Ishinomaki Declaration" is
not feasible given that Japan is bound by the IWC moratorium, the
Declaration has certainly pressured the FAJ to take some measures.
FAJ Morishtia's comments in the whale forum about putting the IWC
into "hibernation" surprised even long-time insider in the Japanese
whaling community Hidehiro Kato of the Tokyo University of Marine
Science and Technology. At a seperate venue, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs' Fisheries Office Director Ryotaro Suzuki told Post that he
had never heard about the hibernation idea and it would not be
possible. The GOJ interagency dynamic on whaling bears watching.


© Scoop Media

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