Fake whale science from ship to shore

Feature Story - 2008-01-21
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza continues to prevent whaling as we shadow the Japanese fleet's factory ship, Nisshin Maru. Our crew today sent a message, direct from the Southern Ocean, linking the scandal of whaling to a host of other scandals plaguing the government in Tokyo.

Greenpeace Japan whales campaigner Sakyo Noda sends a message home by holding the Japanese symbol,'nise', meaning FAKE - against the hull of the Japanese whaling fleet's factory ship Nisshin Maru.

On board an inflatable running parallel to the giant factory ship, Greenpeace Japan whales campaigner Sakyo Noda held the Japanese kanji symbol 偽 ("nise"), meaning "fake", next to the word "RESEARCH" which has been painted by the Japanese Fisheries Agency on the Nishim Maru's hull. Reflecting a growing disquiet in Japanese society, 偽 was voted the best kanji symbol of the year for 2008. Its choice reflects recent food mislabeling scandals, problems over political funds and faulty pension records. Greenpeace Japan is now using it to show that the use of taxpayers money to fund "scientific" whaling which yields no useful science is yet another government scandal.

Due to self-censorship, until recently the whaling issue has not been given much attention in the Japanese news media. Being against whaling was thought to be against Japanese culture. This created a "whalers' sanctuary" inside Japanese society that protected a small number of bureaucrats, whalers and politicians who have vested interests in whaling -- all at the expense of the taxpayer. But finally things are changing, as the truth is beginning to hit home.

Today, one of Japan's leading newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun, called into question the validity of the whaling programme, by asking "Why is the Japanese government so insistent on engaging in whaling?". The report cited concerns about the use of taxpayers' money, dubious science, the lack of interest from the fishing industry in supporting the whaling programme and the fact that former employees of the Japanese government Fisheries Agency were "parachuted" into key (and well paid) roles in the supposedly independent Institute of Cetacean Research - the agency which commissions the whaling fleet.

For many years the Japan Fisheries Agency has claimed that whaling is integral to Japanese culture. Yet when shown pictures of modern whaling in the Southern Ocean, complete with factory ships and grenade-tipped harpoons, Japanese people don't recognise anything traditional about it.  In fact, modern whaling methods were introduced by the US after World War II as a means of addressing food shortages.

Further, a survey conducted by the Nippon Research Centre, in 2006, showed that  over 95 percent of the public had never or very rarely eaten whale meat. It also found that 90 percent of Japanese people had no idea their government hunted whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and once they were aware of it, 69 percent disagreed with it.

Today, Japan has over 4000 tonnes of frozen whale meat in storage, and despite the government's attempts to make eating it part of Japanese culture, the public just aren't interested. Instead, there is a growing interest in the campaign to end whaling in the Southern Ocean. The Greenpeace Japan website has been attracting an extraordinary increase in traffic. Last week the number of page views jumped from 10,000 a day to 10,000 in one hour. Visitors to the web site are also writing letters to Japanese government ministers asking them to stop squandering tax payers money on whaling, via an online petition.

The real beneficiaries of Japanese whaling are a few bureaucrats who maintain the industry on subsidies to cover shrinking whalemeat sales, while damaging Japan's reputation and profitability abroad.  It's time for the taxpayers, the media,  and the business community of Japan to call for an end to this scandal.

Take Action: Stop the new whaling ship

If Japan succeeds in plans to build a new whaling factory ship, whaling could continue for decades. Tell the Japanese Prime Minister that building the new factory ship is a bad idea.

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