DNOWS Header

Image Map

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Whale Of A Conservation Problem

While working in a large Hitachi R&D complex in Japan in the 1990’s, I ate daily in the large company cafeteria along with thousands of my Japanese colleagues. Noodles – warm in winter and cold in summer – along with many fish and tempura dishes were served. The dishes were quite nutritious and balanced with a variety of salads and Japanese delicacies from octopus and squid to natto (fermented soybeans) and hoshi-imo (dried yams) that were welcomed by the busy workforce.

But what was shocking to me was when small plates of whale meat were occasionally served. Sandwiched up between the salads and pickled vegetables in the cafeteria shelves, I had to do a double-take when my eye first saw the dish. “Whale?!?” I thought. “It can’t be; this is modern society.” But I checked the Japanese characters with my dictionary and then confirmed with my colleagues. Yes, it was in fact whale meat being served.

While initially surprising, my innate curiosity nearly led me to grab the dish for a taste. But my conservationist perspective put a halt to my thoughts. But it was served more than once. Always fried, the small chucks of whale meat looked like pieces of fried chicken. I understood the historic reasons for whale meat in the Japanese diet, but my mind always recalled the beautiful sounds of the whales that I heard while swimming in Hawaii. While I eat regularly beef and chicken, with an occasional buffalo burger or ostrich steak during my travels, I am most definitely not a vegetarian. But listening to whales is so much more appealing to my open water swimmer sensitivities than devouring their fried carcass.

The Hitachi plant is located close to the seaside near Ibaraki Prefecture’s main fishing port, so the cafeteria served a staggering number of marine products. The local sea produced much to keep the employees nutritionally energized, but I gladly grabbed a seaweed salad every time I saw the chucks of cetaceans. I could only imagine the wondrous sounds of the whales being replaced by cries of anguish as killing harpoons delved deeply in their blubber and bloody butchering on the decks of a whaling vessel.

But partly to changing dietary habits and foreign pressure, the demand for whale meat has fallen significantly in Japan. Commercial whaling was halted in 1986, but a clause in the International Whaling Commission convention allows countries like Japan and Iceland to hunt whales for research purposes. In Japan, the whale meat can be sold on the open market in order to cover the cost of this research. The International Fund for Animal Welfare reported this week that the thinly disguised commercial whaling practices have cost taxpayers US$378 million since 1987 without being offset by much value due to the research efforts.

Naoko Funahashi of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and a member of the International Whaling Commission reported, "There are very, very few findings which meet [scientific] aims." Other marine conservation biologists around the world believe similarly.

Masayuki Komatsu, a former Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official in Japan, believes there are Japan’s official annual target is 850 minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales. In 2005, the Japanese researchers killed 866 whales, but have stopped hunting humpbacks due to international pressure. Komatsu claims that the number of whales taken is far too small to achieve scientific significance and if the planned number of whales could be killed and analyzed, the data would shed light on the size and health of stocks, and the interaction of whales with their prey and the ecosystem.

But most biologists and others around the world do not agree that research require hunting and killing the whales.

The government subsidies are keeping alive an industry that is facing significantly reduced demand from the Japanese population and is placing an increasing heavier financial burden on the Japanese government at a time when economic conditions has stagnated.

In the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, Japan's four-vessel whaling fleet is now hunting minke and fin whales and being followed by the Sea Shepard Conservation Society that wishes to interrupt the annual hunt with its own four vessels, a helicopter, and drones.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Source

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA


WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB

FREE DOWNLOAD

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download the file to your computer, and then right-click to extract the magazine which is inside the zip folder. The magazine is in PDF format.

CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

Open Water Swimming Magazine


Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...
LEARN MORE

The Other Shore


The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.
LEARN MORE...

2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac



An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:
https://www.worldopenwaterswimmingassociation.com/preview-open-water-swimming-almanac


The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.

SponsorMySwim.com

Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program