Thursday, September 24, 2009

Japan's new government holds firm on whaling

The historic change in government in Japan hasn't brought any changes to the nation's policy on whaling, if recent remarks are any indication. According to the LA Times, the foreign ministers of Japan and Australia met at the UN earlier this week and discussed the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, namely that Japan would like Australia to try to prevent them from their efforts to sabotage Japan's Southern Ocean whale hunt. In other news, the world's older siblings asked their younger siblings to stop bugging them and leave them alone for a change. Sarcasm aside, let's ponder the reasons why this won't happen, based upon my admittedly subjective reading of recent news stories about whales, whaling, and Australia:

1. Australians love whales. Whale-watching is a money-making industry that is incompatible with whaling. Whaling not only means fewer whales, but if the Charles Siebert story in the New York Times a few months ago is any indication, it may also change whale behavior and cause them to avoid humans.

2. Australians love whales. If news stories about anything associated with whaling and Australia are any indication, Australians regard any whales that spend any time in their waters as part of their national heritage. Imagine Russia proposing to dynamite the Great Wall of China or fill in the Grand Canyon with cement. This is how I imagine, with only a slight bit of hyperbole, that Australians would react if their government did anything that even inadvertently helped the Japanese successfully hunt whales.

3. Australians love whales. The possible infertility of a rare white humpback, Migaloo (yes, he has a name. And a website/Facebook page.) prompted multiple news stories to show up in my Google Alert - Whales. In fact, Migaloo has been a fixture in the news. Humpbacks, by the way, are one of the species Japan hunts. I wouldn't want to be the Japanese Ambassador to Australia if Sea Shepherd obtained evidence that the Japanese whaling fleet was within harpooning distance of Migaloo, even if he weren't killed.

Japan's intransigence on the whaling issue is becoming increasingly puzzling. No one's buying whale meat and other countries hate whaling so much that they won't even stop ships from harassing their whaling fleet. Doesn't Japan have more important things to worry about?


Roxy said...

You certainly would think Japan had (excuse the pun) bigger fish to fry.

Many put it down to our "western" mentalities that we are unable to fathom the Japanese insistence on whaling. Personally I put it down to smoke screening by some very savvy Japanese mafiosa/yakuza types.

If we hold whales with such high regard maybe we'll not be paying attention when they empty the seas of tuna. Or if they give up whaling the "tree huggers" focus will fall upon tuna.

There really must be some long term aims for profit that we really can't see or haven't considered yet.

Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition said...

I actually liken it to Southerners insisting upon Confederate pride. Instead of growing up and moving on, the Japanese would rather dig in their heels and try to make everyone admit that whaling is right and good and an integral part of being Japanese. Even though in both cases people would probably not think "how embarrassing that they admitted they were wrong" but rather "finally!"

I can't explain why people choose to take stands on these things that are widely unpopular (and unpopular for a reason), but they keep doing it. I think they'd get more respect for changing their positions and trying to do the right thing.

Plus, the Japanese are so progressive on other environmental issues, like energy conservation. If they stopped whaling, they'd be able to count themselves among the most environmentally responsible countries. And what country doesn't love being on a moral high ground?