Table Speech

“WhalingーPast, Present, and Future”

January 16, 2008

Mr. Masayuki Komatsu,
Specialist Member of the Cabinet Office Council for the Promotion of Regulatory Reform,
Former Director of Fisheries Research Agency,
Doctorate in Agriculture

 There are two classifications of whales, large whales and small whales. There are 13 species of large whales and 70 species of small whales or total of 83 species worldwide.

 What Americans refer to as whales are sperm whales. What the Europeans, particularly those near Spain, refer to as right whales is eubalaena. The whales that are creating an issue for Australia are humpback whales.

 White fin whales had been captured in large volumes by English and Norwegians fishermen. There were some 330,000 of them but currently the population has been reduced to 2,000 heads in the Antarctic Ocean and a total of 10,000 heads in the world making them extinct. The Arctic right whale, which is hunted by Alaskan Eskimos, has become extinct due to aggressive whaling by the United States.

 Currently, according to data from the United States Department of Commerce, sperm whales have recovered in population to roughly 2 million heads. Minke whales also have recovered to 760,000 heads just in the Antarctic Ocean and roughly 1 million heads worldwide.

 This is the current situation with large whales, and these 13 species of whales are subject to whaling prohibition (temporary suspension) under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

 The history of Japanese people and whaling runs deep. In recent history whaling had already been taking place in 1808. During the Edo Period, there were traditional whaling bases in Goto, Iki in Nagasaki, Ogawajima in Saga, Taichi in Wakayama, Mie, Nagato and Muroto. In the “Whale Recipe” written in 1833, 70 parts of a whale are identified and preparation methods and ways to eat for 68 edible parts were detailed.

 Japan undertook whaling surveys in the Antarctic in 1987ー1988 and 2004ー2005. According to the surveys, minke whales and white fin whales had not increased much in their population. However, recently, humpback whales have been increasing. There is a danger that the humpback whales will dominate the Antarctic Ocean and create an imbalance in the ecosystem.

Japanese survey teams tried to investigate the causes on several occasions, but the survey is currently suspended, as the Australian government sources pled with the teams to desist (postpone) the investigation.

 Whales have been a useful source of food. The red meat of the minke whales is rich in iron. Whales in the Antarctic Ocean are almost free of any marine pollutants. In the future, I think it would not be so unimaginable if there will be a scramble over whales in the Antarctic Ocean and Japan will be making efforts to restrain such scrambles.

 Japan feels that from a scientific, treaty, and cultural aspects, whaling should be resumed. However, the International Whaling Commission has been dysfunctional and resumption of whaling has not been approved. In spite of the fact that the resumption of whaling in 1990, at the latest, is made express in the Convention, this has not yet been realized. There have been discussions of withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) or to create an entirely new organization. The Japanese government is contemplating unilaterally resuming whaling under its own responsibility as waters within 200 nautical miles are within its sovereign property.

 Survey whaling of humpback whales will require some modification under the Convention on Biological Diversity under the Washington Convention but the legitimacy of survey whaling is guaranteed even under the International Convention for the Regulation on Whaling. I think holding steadfast on doing legitimate activities should be maintained.

 I think the future picture of mature international relations is maintaining bilateral relationships even where conflicts exist over isolated items.
 I will touch briefly on overall fishing other than whaling.

 Import volume of marine products recently fell below 3 million tons for the first time in 15 years. The demand for marine products is declining. Domestic fishery organizations face decline in numbers of fishing vessels and aging of the fishing workers. In contrast, due to advanced development of detection equipment there has been indiscriminant fishing. Resources are not being managed well and in the fishery industry where the fittest survive, tragedy over shared area will occur. We need to amend our thinking.

 We need to think of fishes in the ocean as the common property of the people. The time has come when fishermen need to head in the direction that they will be fishing in a sustainable manner as a trustee for the people. It would be my desire that the Fisheries Law and Fisheries Cooperative Association Law would be revised in that direction.