Substantial Progress for Japan

A Weekly update of news from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Number 461 - July 12, 2002

Substantial Progress for the Sustainable Use of Whales at the IWC in Shimonoseki

The 54th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the associated meeting of its Scientific Committee were held in Shimonoseki, Japan, from April 25 through May 24. Forty-eight of the 49 member nations, as well as several non-member nations such as Canada, intergovernmental organizations including the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and many non-governmental organizations attended the meeting. There were also more than 400 media representatives present to report on the meeting.

Based on the four principles of 1) sustainable use of marine living resources, 2) the principle of science-based management of resources, 3) ensuring food supply and 4) esteem for traditional cultures, Japan again called on the IWC to base its decisions on science and appealed to delegates to leave emotion and personal political agendas at home.

Mr. Morimoto, Japan's Commissioner to the IWC, said that although there had been some rather pessimistic reports suggesting that no progress had been made at the meeting due to the lack of any agreement, substantial progress had in fact achieved, in particular, related to the sustainable use of whale resources.

Firstly, the number of countries that support the sustainable use of whales and those that are opposed to whaling have become almost equal. Therefore, Japan was close to receiving majority support for its proposal to allow its four whaling communities to catch 50 minke whales in order to sustain their life and culture. Secondly, responding to the fact that there has been no agreement on a new contribution scheme for the past four years, the IWC adopted an interim measure in order to relieve developing nations from the heavy financial burden imposed by the current membership fee strucuture. This interim measure is expected to contribute to making the IWC more representative and well balanced because it will encourage developing countries to join the IWC.

Mr. Morimoto noted, however that the IWC still, in a number cases, ignored the discussion of the IWC Scientific Committee and violated international treaties and agreements. For example, the IWC again refused Iceland admission as an official member of the IWC, and the completion of Revised Management Procedures (RMS) was again postponed by the anti-whaling nations even though Japan proposed to include the agreed parts of the RMS in the IWC regulations.

On the other hand, it also became clear that anti-whaling countries could no longer insist on the adoption of their positions because of membership changes and their lack of a three-fourths majority. For example, the IWC denied a proposal by the United States and the Russian Federation that would have allowed Alaskan and Chukotkan people to take 280 bowhead whales over five years. The bowhead whale is recognized as a protected species by the IWC, and there was concern about allowing a five-year block quota given the status of the stock.

Japan's position was simply that there should be fair application of criteria to judge community needs and fair appraisal of the available scientific studies. However, the U.S. has been using a double standard in steadfastly refusing to address the needs of Japan's small whaling communities. As a result, Japan's reasonable request for 50 minke whales for these communities has received unfair treatment.

At IWC 54, Japan sought a solution to satisfy the demonstrated needs of Alaskan and Chukotkan people together with the needs of people of the four small whaling communities in Japan that have suffered as a result of the IWC's moratorium. In addition, Japan proposed, as an alternative solution, to allocate a single-year quota of bowhead whale instead of five-year block quota, taking the stock status into account. However, the U.S. refused this alternative solution that would have provided relief for the Alaskan and Chukotkan people.

We therefore conclude that the 54th IWC meeting did achieve substantial progress. It was clear that half of the member nations supported Japan's position on the sustainable use of marine living resources, including whales, based on scientific evidences. We believe that holding the meeting in Japan was a good opportunity to promote this position to the world.

Finally, the City of Shimonoseki and its people received much praise from meeting attendees for the hospitality and courtesy they extended throughout the meeting. The Government of Japan would also like to express its sincere appreciation to Shimonoseki City and all its people.

For more information, please contact:

Public Relations Office, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Kasumigaseki 1-2-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8950
Tel: 81-3-3591-2874
Fax: 81-3-3597-8722
Editor: Tsuyoshi Arai

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