International whale watching conference to be held in Tokyo

Friday, 10 December, 2010
Whale watching operators from around Japan are among delegates gathering in Tokyo this weekend for a two-day conference laying the groundwork for the continued growth of whale watching in Japan and around the world.

Around 15 representatives of the country’s whale and dolphin watching associations will be at the meeting convened by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - at the UN University in Tokyo, along with representatives from the only other two countries still whaling for commercial purposes – Iceland and Norway, as well as delegates from the Caribbean and elsewhere.

While Japan’s whaling fleet continues its journey to Antarctica to begin the annual hunt for up to 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales, Japan’s Senior Vice-Minister of the Environment, Shoichi Kondo, will open the whale watching conference tomorrow (Saturday) with delegates set to discuss this rapidly expanding eco-tourism industry which offers a humane and sustainable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.

Whale watching currently raises around USD $2 billion a year for coastal communities around the world.

Earlier this week, Japan’s Fisheries Agency announced results of a very different meeting held to discuss the future of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). According to media reports, representatives from 24 countries and regions, around half of those invited, met to confirm their shared views regarding “sustainable utilisation” of whales.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “These two very different meetings offer starkly different visions of the future and how best to harvest sustainable economic opportunities in the 21st Century.

“While commercial whaling is a cruel and outdated industry providing whale meat which less and less people have an appetite for these days, responsible whale watching continues to grow and is the obvious way forward.”

A new, Japanese language edition of a global economic report to be released by IFAW at this weekend's meeting shows continued expansion of the whale watching industry worldwide including in Japan and across Asia, where its sustained growth significantly outpaces other countries and regions.

IFAW is calling on governments to clean up the IWC following years of vote buying by Japan, alleged corruption and lack of transparency.

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