Japanese Whaling Protest Letter

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Dear Sir,

Your government is currently using Article VIII of the International Convention For The Regulation Of Whaling, 1946, under which a Contracting Government may "grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take, and treat whales for purposes of scientific research". This Article has enabled your government to continue harvesting whales since the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.

The issue is whether the whale hunt actually constitutes valid scientific research.

Dr Roger Payne, a scientific advisor to the IWC, has pioneered the use of non-lethal research techniques that make it possible to collect the same kind of data as lethal research but with one key difference: the data are more representative and cheaper and easier to collect. Dr Payne calls the scientific whaling conducted by Japan an "egregious misuse of science." He points out that that whaling is "done by the same people in the same boats hunting the same whales in the same areas and selling the same products to the same markets."

The vast majority of marine science is conducted by non-lethal means such as DNA analysis of skin samples of whales and analysis of photos of caudal fins. Your lethal research is both unwanted and out-of-step with all other marine science.

Results of DNA analysis work presented at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) last June reveal your whalers are illegally hunting and trading in endangered whales. Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, tested 120 pieces of meat, blubber and skin purchased in 1998 and 1999 from Japanese retail shops and fish markets. The tests uncovered products from three protected species - Fin, Sei and Sperm whales, as well as other irregularities.

Article VIII does allow the proceeds of this research to be sold. Whale meat is regularly sold in your markets and for very high prices in restaurants and shops. It is clear to detached observers that the issuance of scientific permits by your government to members of the Japanese Whaling Association has a strong commercial motivation.

Claims that lethal research will help develop a new quota under the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) are erroneous. Dr Sidney Holt, a prominent scientific advisor to the IWC since 1960, states that "the RMP, no matter how safe it might seem to be in ideal circumstances (and there are still some doubts about that) and even if reinforced with nominal inspection schemes, CANNOT be a sound basis for conservation of whales.

The original intent of Article VIII was to allow scientists to take specimens for their research without having to wait several years for the permit to be processed through the IWC. Japan takes 440 Minke whales from the Antarctic and 100 from the Pacific annually. This is clearly not in keeping with the original intent of the scientific permit exemption.

Media statements declare that Japanese research whaling "complies with all IWC rules and management requirements." May I respectfully point that the decimation of previous whale stocks such as Blue and Fin whales and fisheries such as the cod fishery was also done in compliance with applicable regulations and laws of the time, often by democratically elected governments.

These are the facts. But there is one more compelling reason: moral grounds. In the words of Roger Payne:

"It is because whales are such grand and glowing creatures that their destruction for commerce degrades us so. It will confound our descendants. We were the generation that searched Mars for the most tenuous evidence of life but could not rouse enough moral courage to stop the destruction of the grandest manifestations of life here on earth."

A recent Australian resolution urging your government to refrain from issuing special permits for scientific whaling was carried by a large majority at the International Whaling Commission meeting. I urge you to demand your government reconsider its views and to join all nations in refraining from conducting "lethal scientific" whaling.

Yours Sincerely,

Name: (Your real name)
email: (Your real email address - for your copy of the letter)

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