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Cablegate: Whaling: Japan Resumes Whale Meat Import From Iceland,

VZCZCXRO6026
RR RUEHMJ
DE RUEHKO #3397/01 3500751
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150751Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9442
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
INFO RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0566
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2285
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1116
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2931
RUEHRK/AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK 0198
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 1248
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 0709
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 4558
RUEHMJ/AMEMBASSY MAJURO 0087
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 1085
RHMFIUU/USFJ
RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TOKYO 003397

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR G, OES/OA - MHAYES/LPHELPS, AND EAP/J
USDOC FOR NOAA/NMFS - US IWC COMMISSIONER HOGARTH AND WULFF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EFIS KSCA IWC ETRD JA
SUBJECT: WHALING: JAPAN RESUMES WHALE MEAT IMPORT FROM ICELAND,
FIRST TIME SINCE 1991

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Japan has officially resumed import of whale meat from
Iceland for the first time since 1991. According to GOJ officials
and industry insiders, Icelandic fin whale meat has been sold in the
Japanese market since early November 2008 at a wholesale price of
USD 43 per kilogram. Fin whale meat is preferred by Japanese
consumers and Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market sold out of its share of
the Icelandic product by December 8. A Japanese importer is
currently preparing paperwork needed to import Norwegian minke whale
meat as well. END SUMMARY.

GOJ Released Icelandic Fin Whale Meat Late October
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
cleared between 65 and 80 tons of Icelandic fin whale meat for
distribution within Japan September 26, 2008, according to an
Embassy contact at METI. Piecing together press reports and GOJ
officials' comments, it seems the fin whale meat had been held in a
bonded warehouse by Japan's Customs Agency along with 5 tons of
Norwegian minke whale meat since arriving in Japan in summer 2008.
The METI contact explained that his office granted approval to
release the meat based on a confirmation letter from the Director
General of the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) and an export permit
as required by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) submitted by the Government
of Iceland.

3. (SBU) The FAJ's confirmation verified the fin whale meat did not
violate the CITES nor the 1997 International Whaling Commission
(IWC) resolution prohibiting whale meat import from non-IWC members.
As part of the clearance process, the FAJ had requested the
importer to submit a certificate of origin of the fin whale meat,
the whale's DNA data, and a catch certificate verifying who took the
whales. The importer obtained these documents from the Icelandic
exporter. (NOTE: International trade in whale meat is banned under
the CITES, but Iceland, Japan and Norway have registered
reservations, as the treaty permits, exempting themselves from the
ban. However, fin whales are included in CITES Appendix II when
traded among these nations, which requires a CITES export permit.
END NOTE)

Only Red Meat Approved for Sale
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) After METI cleared the shipment, the Ministry of Health,
Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) inspected the meat for pesticide residue,
mercury, and PCB. After passing the MHLW insepction, Customs
reviewed the CITES export permit, METI's authorization, and MHLW's
inspection report, and released the meat in late October. The fin
whale meat, which hit the market in early November, is favored by
Japanese consumers over the more abundant minke whale meat and sold
out at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market by December 8.

5. (SBU) An industry insider told econoffs the inspection process
had revealed parts of the fin whale meat near the skin contained
pollutants exceeding Japan's standards. As a result, only red meat
that passed the inspection was approved for sale. According to an
Embassy NGO contact, the importer, Asia Shoji (Asia Trading),
contracted with Kyodo Senpaku to distribute the meat within Japan.
Kyodo Senpaku owns the Japanese research whaling vessels and is a
distributer of research whaling byproduct meat. The NGO contact
said the fin whale meat's wholesale price was Yen 4,000 (USD 43) per
kilogram, which is twice the price for minke whale meat but far
below prices reported for fin whale meat two years ago.

Norwegian Minke: Import Authorization Not Yet Finished
--------------------------------------------- ---------

6. (SBU) With regard to the Norwegian minke whale meat (para 2),
the FAJ reports the documents needed to obtain the FAJ Director
General's confirmation (para 3) were not ready as of December 10.
According to the information Post gathered, the Norwegian minke

TOKYO 00003397 002 OF 002


whale is still in the port warehouse.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) From the start of the moratorium on commercial whaling in
1986 until Iceland withdrew from the IWC in 1991, Japan imported
about 1,000 tons of fin whale meat from Iceland each year. Fin
whale meat could find a market in Japan since it is the favored
whale meat of middle-aged whale food lovers. Post will contiue to
monitor and update the developments. END COMMENT

SCHIEFFER

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