On the eve of Panama, yet another sorry note in the Japanese whaling saga

Japanese factory workers moving around the remains of a ‘scientific’ specimen. Seventy five percent of Japan’s 2011 North Pacific whaling season meat went unsold despite thirteen separate public auctions. That’s the finding to emerge from the land of the rising sun this week to further indicate the lack of national appetite for whale meat.

While the Japanese Government funded Institute of Cetacean Research, which carries out Japan’s “scientific” whaling, have offered the cryptic explanation of ‘complicated procedures’ to explain the result, perhaps the law of supply and demand serve as a more useful reference point; the findings are yet the latest example of the lack of economic sense behind Japanese whaling.

Unsold whale meat is not a new phenomenon.

There have been numerous reports of whale meat stockpiles in Japan, and the current estimate is that a staggering 4,700 tonnes remain unsold.

This is despite the failure in recent years of the Japanese whaling fleet to catch anywhere near its self-allocated quota of whales in the Antarctic. And this figure would be even higher if were not for the loss of several hundred tonnes which were in freezers destroyed by the tsunami last year.

Even the ICR is admitting that they are having trouble selling the meat.

So what happened to all the unsold whale meat?

Unbelievably at least 236 tonnes of it went to either rural communities or school lunches.

This is another sorry note in the whaling saga.

Whales are needlessly suffering cruel deaths for a product that nobody wants, even in Japan. Yet ultimately it might be the bad economics stories like this that prove most persuasive to Japanese law-makers.

That’s little solace for the wasted whales, frozen in storage but it is further ammunition to our cause as the International Fund for Animal Welfare works in Japan to highlight the folly of whaling.

As we head to this year’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Panama, it’s also further motivation for those of us on the IFAW delegation to do all we can to see an end to whaling for commercial purposes and the IWC transformed into a modern day whale protection body.


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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation