How long can Japan ignore mounting international pressure to stop whaling?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after their bilateral meeting at Kirribilli House in Sydney, Australia, Jan 14, 2017. Source: Reuters/Chris Pavlich

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after their bilateral meeting at Kirribilli House in Sydney, Australia, Jan 14, 2017. Source: Reuters/Chris Pavlich

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a high-profile business trip to Southeast Asian countries and Australia to strengthen trade, security, and other regional cooperation.

But while he held talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney, ocean activists say there is something amiss in the meeting as whale hunting in the Southern Ocean was not included in the agenda.

Whaling in the Antarctic has strained diplomatic ties between Australia and Japan. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan’s whaling program is unlawful and therefore it must cease once and for all. The Federal Court of Australia also told Japan to stop its massive whaling in the region.

Environmentalists stage a rally against Japan’s whaling in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 19, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Environmentalists stage a rally against Japan’s whaling in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 19, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Despite the rulings, however, Japan ignored them and practically turned deaf ears to global condemnation.

For one thing, whaling is uniquely Japanese, a tradition that dates back since time immemorial – a cultural tradition that only Japanese can understand.

Chris Burgess wrote in The Asia-Pacific Journal an analogy comparing between Japan and whales.

He said to deny Japan from whaling is tantamount to denying Japan’s existence, an insult to its national pride and identity.

Speaking of Japanese-ness, whaling is not an isolated case that Japan has blatantly misunderstood.

Take for instance the demand for apologies for its wartime past. Japan withheld apologies and if it did, the form and content are rather ambiguous.

Japanese prime ministers have acknowledged the pains and sorrows wars have inflicted to hundreds or thousands of victims, but the nation’s officials continue to visit the Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect to war criminals.

SEE ALSO: Japan, S. Korea ‘comfort women’ feud flares amid Pyongyang missile fears

The comfort women’s issue is another thing.

Survivors have demanded apologies and compensation, but Japan strongly denied forcing women into sex slavery — besides hasn’t Germany or America done it too?

Japan has been condemned by its Asian neighbours for glossing over wartime crimes yet it continues to rewrite schools history textbooks extolling its military past. Japan claims innocence to fingers pointed at him as if Japan is simply maligned with impunity.

Simply put, Japan and whales are inseparable. Whale is a delicacy bringing back nostalgia of home and childhood, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes wrote in BBC News, Tokyo .

(File) A chunk of lean meat of a whale caught in the Antarctic is placed on a cutting board before being sliced up for a sashimi dish at whale meat restaurant Magonotei in Tokyo Thursday, June 17, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara

To the Japanese, ethics and morality on meat-eating are practically relative and arbitrary the same way Australians slaughter kangaroo for its meat or how British cook adorable rabbits for a hearty meal, or how Americans make a burger out of a holy cow.

For the Japanese, meat means whale. Could there be a deep chasm between eastern and western thought in regard to being a carnivore?

What Japan might have overlooked is the scale and magnitude of its whale hunting. Japan hunts for 333 minke whales each year traversing and trespassing international waters and marine sanctuaries.

SEE ALSO: Obama urged to pressure Japan to end whaling

Following the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove (2009), which showed the brutal whale slaughter turning waters into blood red, Taiji has become ground zero for local and international activism. Taiji is a town located in Higashimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture.

The notorious whale hunt in Taiji turning water into blood red. (Pic: Supplied)

The notorious whale hunt in Taiji turning water into blood red. (Pic: Supplied)

The film brought global awareness on how fishermen round up some 1,000 dolphins a year to sell to marine parks or kill for meat.

In response to it, Megumi Sasaki produced a documentary film, A Whale of a Tale, in an attempt to shed light on the juxtaposition of contrast between Japanese and non-Japanese thoughts in regard to whale.

Her film, however, did not get as much attention as The Cove.

Japan did not sail to international waters to hunt for whales, not until 1934, eventually ending up to Antarctica. The nation’s confidence was boosted with its advancing technology including the introduction of steam ships and grenade-tipped harpoon guns. Further, whales helped keep Japanese citizens fed both during and after World War II.

Just like its display of military might in the heydays of territorial expansion, the Japanese whaling fleet commands strength and fearless dominion over international waters.

Confrontation at Sea

The Sea Shepherd has been in the media spotlight, unfazed with the Japanese fleet.

The marine conservation group has launched an annual campaign to confront and send the Japanese fleet back home minus the whales.

Dramatic confrontations like adrenaline-packed action movie have taken place in high seas. The head-on clashes, however, have been said to be illegal posing risk and danger at sea.

Nisshin Maru rams The Bob Barker in a series of clashes in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Nisshin Maru rams The Bob Barker in a series of clashes in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

The Sea Shepherd has been charged in a U.S. court for its action despite its noble cause. The U.S. arm of anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has agreed to pay AU$3.332 million (US$2.25 million) to Japanese whalers for breaching a court injunction.

But just like the Japanese, who can stop the Sea Shepherd?

This year, the group dispatched two vessels to mutually bully and harass the Japanese fleet.  Sea Shepherd Global vessels, the Ocean Warrior and the MV Steve Irwin, left Australia’s Southern Operations Base the first weekend of December carrying 51 crew members from eight countries.

Their goal is to intercept the Japanese fleet, which departed from Japan in late November, and prevent them from killing their self-allocated quota of 333 minke whales. This year’s campaign is dubbed as Operation Nemesis.

What else can be done?

Matt Collis of the International Fund for Animal Welfare suggested it is critical to maintain diplomatic pressure on Japan.

He said external pressure can only be successful if enough decision-makers in Japan understand the risks to Japan’s wider interests by continued whaling and start to question the wisdom of that decision.

He also noted that the main option for governments is to make strong diplomatic protests to Japan as 33 countries have already done so, including Australia, the U.S., Mexico, South Africa and all 28 EU member states, led by New Zealand.

The Japanese government needs to understand the changes that have taken place in the course of human history. This is the era where global awareness on the state of the planet has become more urgent than ever.

Part of the difficulty to stop Japanese whaling is rooted in its bureaucratic system. Japan’s whaling is government-run, a large bureaucracy with research budgets, annual plans, promotions and pensions.

If the ministry’s office in charge of whaling is downsized, it discredits the bureaucrats and politicians. For now, downsizing or demolishing the whaling section is not possible. As BBC noted:

“If the number of staff in a bureaucrat’s office decreases while they are in charge, they feel tremendous shame… which means most of the bureaucrats will fight to keep the whaling section in their ministry at all costs. And that is true with the politicians as well. If the issue is closely related to their constituency, they will promise to bring back commercial whaling. It is a way of keeping their seats.”

More activism

Activism has to continue to put pressure on Japan sending a message that time has changed.

Remember what the small neighbour South Korea did. Victims of comfort women protested every Wednesday without ceasing since the 2005 in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

The move was aimed at forcing the Japanese government to make public and face-to-face apology, as well as to offer individual compensation for its wartime sex crimes.

As a constant reminder, the now aged women in their 80s or 90s, supported by various civic and academic groups, put up bronze statues in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul and in major cities worldwide.

The statues depict young girls who were forced to serve as comfort women for Japanese soldiers during World War II. The sight has embarrassed embassy officials. Recently, these grandmothers have stroke a breakthrough.

SEE ALSO: Japan: South Korea’s WWII ‘comfort women’ to receive $90k each

The Japanese government finally caved in to their demands for formal apology and compensation. However, there is a string-attached to the compensation package. Japan asked the South Korean government to remove the statues they have erected in front of the embassies and elsewhere.

A big whale statue might not be needed to put up in front of every Japanese embassy around the globe, but a sustained pressure can send the message across: it is sad to say goodbye to whaling, but time has changed.

It is time to set the whales free.

Follow @rdelarosayoon on Twitter | Blog Link

Advertisements

Post-Easter

Australia has gone through a long weekend over Easter period and business has just resumed today.

Nonetheless, the past days had not been completely quiet. Issues on the rights of asylum seekers rage on while civic activism continues.

In NSW, residents fear about gas fracking and contamination while in Queensland, conservation groups rally against massive industrialization along the Great Barrier Reef. Tasmania Wilderness remains under threat as the Tony Abbott Government changed its mind about protecting the world heritage forested areas. There is a ray of hope in Western Australia as a result of the recently held election. However, the fight to protect the rights of sharks from culling is expected to go on.

Whales in the Southern Ocean, meanwhile, can enjoy a peaceful and safe interlude while the Japanese harpoons had lost their case in the international court. They are back home pondering what to do next and it is possible they will come back to pursue their “scientific research”.

I will resume my writing soon.

Whale hunters, pirates up for another Antarctic clash

The annual whale hunt season has arrived in the Southern Seas, which usually starts in December and lasts up to summer, around June. The “notorious Japanese whalers” embarked on their expedition early this month undeterred by the expected interception of the relentless anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Australia (SSA). The whale activists launched the 10th Antarctic Defence Campaign (ADC), dubbed “Operation Relentless.”

This year expects more violent vessel clashes between the Japanese and the anti-whaling ”pirates”. SSA claims itself to be a defender of the Southern Ocean and all life forms it contains.

Last year, the 5000-ton My Bob Barker was severely damaged when the 8000-ton Nisshin Maru collided with it. The two groups clashed in exchanges that have seen stink bombs thrown at Japanese crew and water jets trained on protesters.

SSA’s “Operation Zero Tolerance” was able to limit the whalers’ haul to a record low of 103 Antarctic minke whales.

Foreign governments have criticised Japan’s whale hunts, alleging violation of the International Whaling Commission’s ban for commercial whaling which it introduced in 1986. Although Tokyo defended its whaling on grounds of scientific research, activists said “research whaling” is a cover up for commercial whaling that is banned under an international agreement. Tokyo also said the practice of eating whale is part of Japanese culinary tradition, and therefore the whales are studied as part of a bid by its whaling research institute to prove their populations can sustain commercial whaling.

NM-rams-BB-into-Sun-Laurel © Sea Shepherd/ Glenn Lockitch 2013
Japanese-owned Nisshin Maru rams the Bob Barker into the Sun Laurel. Pic: Glenn Lockitch.

Amid international outcry, two Japanese whaling ships and a surveillance vessel left on December 8 for the annual hunt in the Antarctic Sea. The three ships departed from the western port of Shimonoseki to join other ships to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales through March, The Kyodo News reported.

The news agency said the Fisheries Agency had kept secret the departure date of the whaling fleet as a precaution against Sea Shepherd.

In Australia, three ships left Williamstown in Victoria and Hobart Port in Tasmania: The Steve Irwin ,The Sam Simon, and The Bob Barker departed to sail southward to confront the sea hunters. In the nine previous ADCs, SSA has saved over 4,500 protected whales from illegal slaughter.

20130904_123428
My Bob Barker docks at Docklands in Melbourne for public viewing. Pic: R. Yoon/The Green Journal.

Managing Director of SSA Jeff Hansen said the crew on the ships carry with them the hope, the aspirations, and the expectations of people from across the world who hope to see the end to the annual slaughter.

Captain of The Bob Barker Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden also stated the Japanese whale poaching fleet heading to the south is an offence to an international community waiting on the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. “Sea Shepherd will now, again, head south as the only authority acting to restore law and order to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” the captain added.

Captain of The Steve Irwin, Siddarth Chakravarty of India expects that within a week, he and his crew will be with the whales and will not return until peace has been restored in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

This year, over 100 volunteers from 24 countries around the world join Operation Relentless to guard the gates of the southern sanctuary and to uphold the 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

Sea Shepherd Global Director,Alex Cornelissen of Netherlands said, “Like all poachers we encounter in our global campaigns, we will deal with the whalers the same way we always do: Relentlessly.”

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Anti-whaling ship departs from Melbourne

A brief announcement from my mail box:

Melbourne based Sea Shepherd ships set to depart for Operation Relentless

Sea Shepherd ships, The Steve Irwin and The Sam Simon will depart Williamstown on Monday 16th December.

The crew of 100 from 24 nations are ready to confront the Japanese whale poachers and halt their planned illegal slaughter of more than a 1,000 whales. The proposed kill includes 935 protected Minke, 50 endangered Fin and 50 Humpback Whales.

We have invited all of our supporters to come down to see the ships and crew head off on this critical mission to defend the great whales of the Southern Ocean.

When: Monday 16th of December. Press Conference at 9am (The Sam Simon will depart at 5:30am and The Steve Irwin at 12pm).

Where: Sea Shepherd Australia Operations Base – Seaworks, 2 Ann Street, Williamstown, Victoria.

Who: Captain Siddharth Chakravarty, Captain Adam Meyerson and Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director, Jeff Hansen. Others in attendance include Sea Shepherd crew and hundreds of local supporters

For background on Operation Relentless please see the new campaign website:

http://www.seashepherd.org.au/relentless/

(Photo: Sea Shepherd flagship, Steve Irwin)

(Photo: Sea Shepherd ship, My Steve Irwin)