Thursday, July 28, 2011

Humanity's Forward (or backward) Movement Ties to Whales, Whaling, Slaughter

 For the Love of Whales

Ahh, oceans, environmentalism, conservation, sanity! On a sustainability site no less. So, we dejja vu back to 2007,2008, and 2009; one cool environmental writer -- Kelpie Wilson, covers the environment.

Recall, the first Earth Day, with Roger Payne discussing the power of people to come together and fight international illegalities, to fight cultural xenophobia, brought us the environmental movement on the backs of dying whales --

"A growing number of Gray Whales in the sub Arctic waters are contaminated. As bottom feeders, these whales are vulnerable to toxic pollution. Recent data from our worldwide sampling of sperm whale blubber - The Voyage of the Odyssey - show that many whales are polluted to levels that make their meat unsafe for human consumption-a sufficient cause to discontinue whaling."

Dr Roger Payne founded the Ocean Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization in 1971. He has conducted research on whales in all the oceans of the world, and has been an eloquent spokesman for their welfare for over three decades. In the early 1970s, he was among the first to sound the alarm about the threat of worldwide pollution of the oceans that most people are only now learning about.

 In the January 1979 issue of National Geographic, Dr. Payne said, "Pollution has replaced the harpoon as a mortal threat to whales, and in its way can be far more deadly."

Dr. Payne along with colleague Scott McVay, discovered that the eerie sounds made by humpback whales were actually complex, repeated patterns of sounds and thus songs. He and the members of his laboratory determined that these songs change constantly and when complex, often include rhyme.

For his work, Dr. Payne has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the 1994 Lyndhurst Prize, a knighthood from the Netherlands, and has been named to the United Nations Environmental Program's Global 500 Roll of Honor. The
National Geographic Society has referred to him as "the Dean of modern whale research," and his work has appeared four times on the pages of the National Geographic as well as in many technical publications.

He is a well-known and respected figure at international meetings, conferences, and symposiums, including the annual meetings of the International Whaling Commission.

His work has been the subject of more than thirty television documentaries, including 1991's popular, Emmy-nominated "In the Company of Whales."

By Kelpie Wilson
t r u t h o u t | Environmental Editor

Wednesday 30 May 2007

Once again, in what has become an annual rite, Japan, Iceland and Norway will try, at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission this week, to overturn the international ban on hunting whales, while a global coalition of whale lovers urges governments to stand firm against the move.

This year the meeting takes place in Anchorage, Alaska, where Japan has introduced a new twist to the debate. Japan is asking the IWC to approve a quota for traditional cultural whaling along its coasts, similar to the quotas in place for traditional subsistence whale hunts in Alaska.

Japan has also announced that it will be going after a self-administered quota of 50 humpback whales in the Southern Ocean next year. Japan began a program of so-called "scientific" whaling in 1987 after the IWC imposed the ban on commercial whaling. Japan kills around a thousand whales every year under this program, mostly the smaller minke whales.

Targeting humpback whales is winning Japan no friends. Humpbacks are one of the most charismatic whale species. Known for their enchanting songs and acrobatic displays, they are a whale watcher's delight.

Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull called Japan's plan to kill humpbacks "needlessly provocative," and warned Japan that its whaling practices have a negative impact on public opinion in Australia.

New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter said, "World opinion is on the side of conservation, and the vast majority of people on Earth don't want to eat whales; they want to protect them at a time of global climate change. You know, killing whales shouldn't be happening."


And from Ecolocalizer, from 2008 --

Prior to the advent of modern whaling techniques in the 19th century, Fin whales were largely immune to predation by humans. However, modern methods have allowed an estimated 90,000 Fin whales to be caught in the North Atlantic up until around the late 1980′s, with some subsistence catches in Greenland continuing. Populations in the Pacific and Antarctic regions are less well known.

The Fin Whale is currently listed in appendix 1 of the CITES list of endangered species. This list aims to protect endangered species by preventing international trade except when import is for non commercial reasons. However, Iceland along with Norway and Japan hold reservations to this listing.

This effectively means that these countries have opted out of this area of the CITES convention, allowing them to trade this species. The catch rates set by the International Whaling Commission have been set at zero since 1976, however this does not apply to Iceland, Norway or the Russian Federation which have all objected to this provision.

This export from Iceland is the first shipment to Japan for 20 years. The consignment consists of about 70 tonnes of meat from both Fin and Minke whales. Conservation groups see this as an effort to establish a market in Japan for whale meat caught by the Icelandic fleet. It is also seen as a political move designed to show Iceland’s coalition government that whaling can be a profitable venture at a time when Iceland’s economy, like many others, is under severe pressure.

So what is the good of having international treaties such as the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species and the International Whaling Commission if governments are able to opt out if it is inconvenient for them? How are they supposed to protect if they have no teeth? It can be said that they do help to raise awareness, which in turn may bring about pressure for change. But then organizations such as Sea Shepherd do a pretty good job of that, and probably for a lot less money.

Image credit: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license


And, then, Today, July 28, 2011 ---------------------------

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Our campaign to save the whales is working. Help us keep the pressure up by making a donation today!

Dear Paul,
We are two steps closer to ending the slaughter of whales. Help us take two more. Please rush your donation now to help us continue this fight and our other environmental battles.
Imagine a world where whales no longer need to worry about being chased down by a massive whaling boat, shot with a harpoon and dragged around until they are so exhausted they drown. This brutality is inflicted on hundreds of whales for nothing. In many cases their meat is piling up in freezers going unsold.

That world is possible, if we have anything to say about it. After continued pressure from thousands of people just like you, the US government is finally playing hardball with Iceland over the country’s insistence on continuing their senseless slaughter of endangered Fin whales.

Last month, over 30,000 of you sent letters to the Department of Commerce urging the government to impose trade penalties on Iceland if they continue to ignore the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling.

And I’m excited to say the Obama Administration heard your message loud and clear.

In a statement released late last week, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said, “Iceland’s disregard for the International Whaling Commission’s global moratorium on commercial whaling is unacceptable. Iceland’s harvest of whales and export of fin whale meat threaten an endangered species and undermine worldwide efforts to protect whales. It’s critical that the Government of Iceland take immediate action to comply with the moratorium.”

But the war is not over yet. We’re close, but everyday is one day closer to the Japanese whalers leaving for their annual whale slaughter in the Southern Ocean.

Please rush your donation to Greenpeace right away so we can continue to pressure governments and the IWC to stop the annual killing of these majestic and gentle giants.

This huge victory follows on the heels of another great piece of news I shared with all of you last week from the IWC meeting - the Commission passed new rules to address the rampant corruption of their process caused by Japan’s vote buying by no longer allowing a country to pay their dues using cash, credit cards or other non transparent means.

These are two huge battles for which Greenpeace and its members can claim victory, and we can’t thank you enough. Greenpeace is people-powered; we do not take any money from corporations or government. With your support, we are getting so close on ending the slaughter of whales.

Please help us in our efforts to stop environmental wrongs like the annual whale slaughter by Iceland and Japan. We have seen two huge victories this summer and we need to keep up the momentum.

Help us end this


So, the fight is not over. These countries, Finland, Norway, Japan, and our own western pollution culture, are out of the loop. There is absolutely zero need for whaling in the 21st Century.

Here are some paragraphs from one writer, running The Diplomat:


Japan has taken more than 12,000 whales under its research whaling programme since 1986, when a moratorium on commercial whaling was enacted by the IWC. While the commercial industry was estimated at $100 million a year in 1986, in recent years sales have dropped below $50 million and the Japanese industry, which generates around 2000 jobs, was estimated at needing an annual subsidy of $12 million in 2008/09 just to break even.

However, Japan’s whaling outside its waters has incurred the wrath of environmental groups along with Western allies.

Australia has long threatened legal action against Japan, having dispatched Australian Customs ship Oceanic Viking to Antarctic waters in 2007/08 to collect evidence as part of its proposed case. The frustration of the government of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with the failure of diplomacy was underscored in May 2010, when it finally followed through on its pledge by initiating legal action at the ICJ against Japan’s research whaling.

‘We want to see an end to whales being killed in the name of science in the Southern Ocean, ’then Australian environment minister Peter Garrett said in announcing the action, a move described by a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman as ‘regrettable.’

While doubting the effectiveness of the legal move, the University of Adelaide’s Joel Rathus says the reasons for Australia’s opposition to whaling in what it considered to be ‘our waters’ were obvious.
‘It can hardly be described as traditional fishing or research whaling if you’re willing to get a fleet of commercial boats and travel halfway around the planet to take these things—it’s a very deliberate act of coming here and taking whales from a sanctuary,’ he says.

Temple University Japan professor Jeff Kingston describes the practice as a diplomatic ‘own goal’ by Japan and a black mark on its green credentials internationally.

‘There really is no other policy that draws such universal condemnation as Japan’s whaling policy,’ he says. ‘The number of people in Japan that benefit from whaling is minimal, the economic importance of whaling is minimal and whale meat constitutes less than one percent of the Japanese protein intake.


Yet according to Malcolm Cook of Australian think tank the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Japan’s whaling policy is a classic example of ‘regulatory capture’in a nation where bureaucrats have long held the upper hand over elected lawmakers.

‘Regulatory capture is the reason Japan’s whaling industry continues, and it’s hard to see it escaping this,’ he says.‘As a share of government spending, the whaling subsidies are very, very insignificant, and clearly certain districts in the whaling areas near the coast which are held by the ruling party have a strong domestic political interest in keeping it going.

‘I’m sure many within the Japanese government know that whaling gives them a bad name for very little economic return, but in the end, the iron triangle of industry, local politics and the bureaucracy work to maintain the industry.’


Former Sea Shepherd activist Peter Bethune says Japan was ‘looking for a face-saving out’from its Southern Ocean whaling, and changes in shipping regulations could provide the opportunity.

‘New rules governing vessels in Antarctica come into force soon, and one of these prohibits the use of heavy oils. They would have to use diesel-powered vessels and (Japan’s main whaling ship) the Nisshin Maru cannot take diesel fuel, so they would have to completely rekit the vessel,’ he says.

‘The second one is that vessels have to be double-skinned—effectively using two hulls instead of one. To do this to their entire fleet would be a massive undertaking—it might cost them $300 million, and this is only a $50 million a year operation.’

He adds: ‘Japan may choose to ignore the new regulations as it’s done in the past, but it’s harder this time round with so much public scrutiny. If I was to take a punt, I’d reckon in five years they’ll have stopped whaling in Antarctica.

‘Withdrawing from there would take a lot of heat out of the issue from New Zealand and Australia, which regard the area as their backyard.’

Bethune also points to Japan’s willingness to compromise at the latest IWC negotiations as a positive sign.

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