Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XI No. 4 - October 2002

Killing and Eating Whales and Dolphins

A bowhead whale was killed and landed at Nuiqsut, Alaska, on 5 September. The 29-foot "ingutuk", meaning a fat yearling, was the first kill of the season. Whalers from Kaktovik killed two more a few days later. Bowheads passing whaling communities in Alaska on their way to the Bering Sea are hunted by ten villages along Alaska's arctic coastline. Barrow's whalers struck nine whales last spring, several were lost at sea, and four more were lost as ice crumbled under the butchering sites. The Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort stock of bowheads was listed as an endangered species in the 1970s but the International Whaling Commission in 1978 began to allow Alaskan Eskimos an aboriginal subsistence quota. The quota continued every year until recently, when it was briefly in jeopardy for 2003 (below). With a population of about 10,000 bowheads, a total of 70 strikes per year are allocated among the ten villages.

An Eskimo whale hunter was killed while hunting for gray whales in late June. The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission was investigating the incident, which was complicated by the fact that the Bering Sea village of Diomede was not permitted to kill gray whales and did not have a quota. The whaling expedition was undertaken out of need, and any possible infraction noted by the IWC may reflect that, unless politicized by the commercial whalers. Preparing for the Cambridge meeting of the IWC, the U.S. focused on the need for a subsistence quota for bowheads while downplaying the gray whale incident, which probably would have gone unrecorded except for the Eskimo's death.

The 5th Special Meeting of the International Whaling Commission will be held 14 October 2002, in Cambridge, England, originally because "The United States of America and the Russian Federation intend to propose an amendment to paragraph 13.(b).(1) of the Schedule regarding the aboriginal subsistence hunt of bowhead whales from the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock." The meeting was in response to the diplomatic huff that exploded after the obnoxious and tyrannical Japanese IWC Commissioner manipulated the 54th meeting of the IWC into a vote that rejected the quota for Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Catch Limits of bowheads. His motive had been to pressure the U.S. to support a quota of 50 Minke whales a year for coastal Japanese whaling that was clearly commercial. That backfired when the U.S. Commissioner rightfully refused. CSI and many other IWC NGOs wrote letters of support for that decision, to counter administration concerns that the Alaskan Eskimos would not get a legal aboriginal subsistence quota for 2003. While the administration had made clear again that they would do anything to satisfy Native Americans, even support commercial whaling, the Japanese relented and this special IWC meeting was called. Then Norway seized the opportunity to use this special IWC meeting to have the assembled commissioners discuss and perhaps agree behind closed doors on the Revised Management Scheme (RMS). CSI opposes the RMS absolutely, as it initiates a formal agreement to permit commercial whaling, a very big hole in an already riddled dam. Whaling nations have demonstrated continuously that they will kill whatever they want, while evading adequate accountability or enforcement. As noted above, the Japanese allotted 50 minke whales to their shore based whaling stations anyway, mislabeled as "research whaling".

A North Pacific right whale calf was seen by NMFS scientists in the southeastern Bering Sea on 24 August, the first seen in more than a century. Between 1900 and 1994 there were only 29 reliable sightings of right whales in the eastern North Pacific, and only four to 13 whales have been seen by scientists per year since then. Beginning in 1997 skin samples have identified six male North Pacific right whales, but no females. Only one of nine samples this year was from a female, the calf's mother. Even after international protection was afforded in 1935, illegal Soviet Union whaling continued, as proven by several records later recovered from field stations. Both Japan and the Soviet Union routinely falsified records relied upon by the IWC to establish quotas and policy, as proven by several revelations.

CSI reminds readers that Professor Alexey V. Yablokov, Chairman, Center for Russian Environmental Policy, had requested our help in making public the true Soviet whaling records, detailing how many whales of all species were actually killed up until 1972. One of the ways we helped was by including them in October 1997's Whales Alive!, and on our web site. The Japanese commercial whalers may simply take whatever they can find, as detailed in recent reports, and who knows how many pirate whalers still supply the supermarket shelves of Asia.

Minke whales' "red flesh" dropped 12.8%, to 2,600 yen ($22) per kg, as Japan's whaling research group, the Institute of Cetacean Research, reacted to what they call a slump in the nation's economy. Profiting from Japan's "research" whaling, the institute dropped the price to sell 1,900 tons of the whale meat at central wholesale markets across Japan.

Falsely labeled whale meat accounted for almost 10% of sales in Japan during 2000, according to the Institute of Cetacean Research. Three internal surveys since 1996 have matched the DNA of samples to species. 400 food outlets nationwide were sampled in 2000, finding 90 out of 980 products falsely labeled. Dolphins were sold as minke whales, and minke whales were labeled as finback whales. Species were not identified at all in about 59% of the samples, and only 24% of them were properly labeled. Humpback whale meat was being sold, although all whale meat sold in Japan supposedly comes from the government's so-called scientific whaling program, which is not supposed to kill humpbacks. The Japanese Fisheries Agency responded to recent charges of false labeling by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) by conducting their own tests. At last May's IWC meeting the EIA had reported finding Japanese market samples of cetaceans labeled as from Greenland and Russia. The Fisheries Agency admitted to the mislabeling when Dall's porpoise were found in samples, but said the meat was from legally killed animals, including Antarctic minkes. Japan's Agricultural Standard (JAS) law requires the common species name and origin of the product to be clearly labeled. EIA also determined that whale meat sold in Japan is harmful to the health of consumers, finding one sample with a mercury level 56 times above Japan's advisory limit for human consumption.

Japan reported having killed 100 minke, 50 Bryde's, 39 sei and five sperm whales in the northwest Pacific Ocean, when the six ship pelagic whaling fleet returned in late September. 194 whales were killed of a planned 210. This was the first known kill of sei whales since they were considered nearly extinct 26 years ago. The Fisheries Agency had relied on internal data to estimate that there as many as 28,000 of the species in the northern Pacific. Last year Japan caught 158 whales in the northwest Pacific and 440 whales in the in the Antarctic. 22,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales are also killed each year. Japan's commercial whaling is also mislabeled, as JARPN II, or "Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the western North Pacific." The "feasibility study" for 2002 called for a yearly killing of 100 Minke whales, 50 Bryde's whales, 50 sei whales and 10 sperm whales with the pelagic whaling fleet, and, "to cover the temporal and spatial gaps" another 50 minke whales by small type whaling catcher boats operating from shore stations.

A historic Japanese dolphin watching tour took place in early October in Futo, Japan. Run by Ishi-san, a reformed dolphin hunter, the premier trip was enjoyed by CSI Board member Deb Adams, noted filmmaker and dolphin advocate Hardy Jones, and others who had come to support the event. There were so many Japanese media that they used a second converted fishing boat on the tour. In one of those events that make people wonder, a large sperm whale approached the media boat and closely circled, while the other boat also enjoyed the whale's attention. To no one's surprise the event received national TV and newspaper coverage. Meanwhile Japanese dolphin killer Norimasa Suzuki, a spokesman for the Ito Fishing Cooperative, said the Ito fishers have decided to resume hunting dolphins "thanks to the fast-kill method that will virtually eliminate pain to the animals."

Faeroe Islanders killed at least 200 pilot whales and 35 bottlenose dolphins in four `grinds' on 3 September. While the whalers are complaining of a comparatively poor season, the Associated Press on 24 July reported that "Babies born in the Faeroe Island in the North Atlantic, where people eat lots of highly contaminated whale meat, have a higher risk of certain subtle defects in memory and learning."

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will hold its twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12), in Santiago, Chile from 3-15 November 2002. CSI is very pleased to have Marta Hevia of Argentina as our Non-governmental Observer at COP 12, in part to foster our growing relationships with like-minded organizations in Latin America, and to fight to prevent downlisting of any cetacean species, a move that would assist the reopening of legitimized commercial whaling. Marta is a member of the scientific / conservation organization Fundación CETHUS, of Puerto San Julian, Argentina. In spite of whales being protected by the most restrictive CITES trade category, for species "threatened with extinction", Norway, Japan, and Iceland took reservations to those listings and are technically allowed to trade whale products. Under that loophole the Myklebust Trading Ltd. of Norway exported a second shipment of processed minke whale meat to Iceland in late September, totaling 17 tons. The last export of whale meat went to Japan in 1988, which has been unable to consume what they caught themselves. Even with the reservation loophole Norway has attempted to have the minke and other large whales downlisted from Category I at the last two CITES meetings, in 1997 and 2000. They will keep trying for the two-thirds majority required for such a major decision. Norway's meat is supposed to be trackable using DNA identification to determine what population the whales came from, to prevent scandals similar to mislabeled whale meat sold in Japan. In October Norway announced that they were giving themselves a quota of 711 minkes to be killed. Last year Norwegian whalers caught 634 minkes out of a quota for 671.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) now obligates the 80 member nations to prevent fishing gear entanglements and illegal killing within national waters of the Ganges and Indus River dolphin, plus fin, sei, and sperm whales with an Appendix I listing. Antarctic Minke, Bryde's, orca, pygmy, and southern right whales have been included in Appendix II as well. These additions endorsed Australia's proposal to the CMS treaty, in part to enable South Pacific nations to establish regional whale protection zones in the South Pacific and undertake other conservation actions, such as developing non-lethal research programs, and developing and implementing whale watching guidelines and bycatch mitigation strategies. Norway objected to listing any cetaceans under CMS, citing duplications with the IWC and CITES. Denmark requested a formal reservation on behalf of the Faeroe Islands to listing any whale species in the CMS. The Appendix I listing for the critically endangered Ganges and Indus River dolphin resulted from strong concerns from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society about the species' critical status, threats from habitat degradation, poaching and bycatch, and probable extinction without urgent action.

The SPAW Protocol was finally ratified in early September by the U.S. Senate, but with reservations. Formally known as the "Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region", it was prepared at Kingston, Jamaica, on 18 January 1990. The reservations are complicated, and may have political and legal ramifications, as the U.S. again holds back on an arduously hammered out agreement among nations concerning natural resources. Shades of the Kyoto Agreement on global warming! Although the reservations are supposed to allow already strict U.S. laws to better govern restrictions, the recent assaults by the Department of Defense on the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and other backbones in protective laws (see the July Whales Alive!), makes the reservations suspect as part of a broader negative policy. Ratifying the SPAW Protocol will require no new legislation.

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