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Pacific Ocean. Endangered sei, sperm whales being hunted plea for mercy. Whaling fleet with 200+ crew set sail, mid-June 2010

By WcP.Story.Teller - Posted on 15 June 2010

worldwide commercial-whaling moratorium that has been in place since 1986 is under seige

Kujira-san,'Mr Whale', Whistleblower
A former Japanese whaler comes forward to the Guardian UK. Read 'Mr. Whale's' testimony

photo: breaching humpback whale

Japan’s Junichi and Toru (‘Tokyo Two’); New Zealand’s Peter Bethune... defending the ocean from illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

the Beluga or White Whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is an Arctic and sub-Arctic species of cetacean

Escalating: with >200 crew, Japanese whaling fleet set sail to kill. “Maybe Japanese whalers thought that their mission of slaughter would go unnoticed because this hunt is not taking place in an IWC sanctuary? Or maybe Japan believes that the deal will go through and by the time the fleet reaches port in August commercial whaling will once again be authorized by the IWC?"

A Japanese whaling fleet left port this week with a quota to kill 260 whales in the North Pacific. Three harpoon ships and two research vessels left ports in Japan yesterday, carrying more than 200 crew. The fleet aims to kill 100 minke whales, 100 sei whales, 50 Bryde's whales and 10 sperm whales before late August.

Similar hunting ventures into the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary have sparked opposition from Sea Shepherd. Whalers have never faced protesters in the Pacific and a Sea Shepherd spokesperson said the organisation was too involved in fighting illegal tuna fishers in the Mediterranean to target the Japanese fleet.

Although whaling is illegal, the Japanese use a loophole in the law which allows whales to be killed for scientific research. The meat is then sold in Japan. Australia is currently taking legal action in the International Court of Justice in a bid to end Japanese whaling.

The action comes just weeks before the annual International Whaling Commission meeting which will decide whether to allow the resumption of commercial whaling in exchange for nations agreeing to smaller quotas.

Vice president of Humane Society International Kitty Block said the latest Japanese whaling mission made a mockery of international laws. “The timing of Japan’s whaling expedition makes a mockery of the compromise process in which IWC delegations are engaged,” Ms Block said.

“Maybe Japanese whalers thought that their mission of slaughter would go unnoticed because this hunt is not taking place in an IWC sanctuary?

“Or maybe Japan believes that the deal will go through and by the time the fleet reaches port in August commercial whaling will once again be authorized by the IWC?

“Whatever their reasoning, this most recent action demonstrates that the only way to ensure less whales are killed is to seek better enforcement, close the loopholes in the convention and uphold the global moratorium on commercial whaling.”

The Guardian: Whaling industry, which reportedly required government subsidies of almost $12m in 2008-09, is highly efficient. 'The fleet would sometimes catch more whales than necessary,' ‘Mr. Whale’ said, 'strip them of the most expensive parts and throw what was left overboard. I didn't think of the embezzlement at first. I just couldn't stand the waste. A lot of whale meat [about £148) a kilo] was being thrown away because we kept catching whales even after we'd reached our daily quota. I decided I had to tell someone what was happening.'

He once wielded a knife on the deck of a Japanese whaling ship, slicing apart the behemoths of the ocean in the name of "scientific research", while much of the rest of the world looked on in horror. Now, as Japan pushes to overturn the 24-year ban on commercial whaling, the former whaler has come forward with allegations of widespread criminality among the men with whom he spent months in the freezing waters of the Antarctic.

photo: breaching humpback whale

Japan’s Junichi and Toru (‘Tokyo Two’); New Zealand’s Peter Bethune... defending the ocean from illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

the Beluga or White Whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is an Arctic and sub-Arctic species of cetacean

Sent every winter to slaughter the mammals for research that Japan says is vital to our understanding of whale populations, the crewmen are instead seizing and selling prized cuts of meat to earn extra cash and, in at least one case, earn many more times their annual salary, says the whaler-turned-whistleblower. He refers to himself only as "Kujira-san" (Mr Whale), a precaution necessitated by a genuine fear for his safety. But the personal risks will be worthwhile, he says, if it means the world learns the truth about the dark side of Japan's whaling industry.

"Even before we arrived in the Antarctic Ocean," he says of a recent expedition, "the more experienced whalers would talk about taking whale meat home to sell. It was an open secret. Even officials from the Institute of Cetacean Research [a quasi-governmental body that organises Japan's whaling programme] on the ship knew what was happening, but they turned a blind eye to it."

Kujira, who worked aboard the Nisshin Maru mother ship, saw crew members helping themselves to prime cuts of whale meat and packing them into boxes they would mark with doodles or pseudonyms so they could identify them when the vessel reached port. "They never wrote their real names on the boxes," he said.

Some whalers would take home between five and 10 boxes, he said, while one secured as many as 40 boxes of prime meat that fetches ¥20,000 (about £148) a kilo when sold legally. One crew member built a house with the profits from illicitly sold whale meat, he said. "Another used the money he earned to buy a car," he said. "They were careful to select only the best cuts, like the meat near the tail fin. I never dared challenge them."

Kujira paints an unpleasant picture of life at sea, although he is reluctant to divulge details for fear of revealing his identity. Newcomers are badly treated by more experienced whalers, fuelled by a machismo culture that is disappearing from other parts of the fishing industry. "The treatment of junior crew has improved a lot elsewhere over the last 40 years," he said. "But the industry seems to be trapped in time."

He contradicted Japan's claims that the industry, which reportedly required government subsidies of almost $12m in 2008-09, is highly efficient. The fleet would sometimes catch more whales than necessary, he said, strip them of their most expensive parts and throw what was left overboard. "I didn't think of the embezzlement at first. I just couldn't stand the waste. A lot of meat was being thrown away because we kept catching whales even after we'd reached our daily quota. I decided I had to tell someone what was happening."

Oddly, perhaps, for someone with his professional background, he sought help from Greenpeace. In 2008, the organisation launched a secret investigation into embezzlement by the crew of the Nisshin Maru, during which Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki intercepted a box containing 23kg of whale meat – worth about ¥350,000 – at a warehouse in Japan that they later presented as evidence.

After initially agreeing to act on their claims, prosecutors dropped the case and instead, Sato and Suzuki were arrested and charged with theft and trespassing. Last week, prosecutors demanded an 18-month prison sentence for the "Tokyo Two", who were held without charge for 23 days and interrogated while strapped to chairs without their lawyers present. A ruling is expected in the next few months.

Kujira's allegations come as the International Whaling Commission [IWC] prepares to meet next week in Morocco to discuss a proposal that could end the moratorium on commercial whaling in return for whaling nations agreeing to smaller quotas. In the run up to the meeting, Japan has reverted to its preferred tactic of using aid to sway small islands and even landlocked nations to vote with it in the 88-member body.

Under the IWC moratorium, Japan is permitted to catch just under 1,000 whales – mainly minke – in the name of scientific research. Meat from the cull is sold on the open market and the profits used to fund future whaling expeditions. Japan denies allegations of vote-buying, but has acknowledged that it invests heavily in the fishing industries of some IWC allies, and pays the expenses of delegates from poorer countries.

Kujira is trying to generate interest among Japan's media, which are reluctant to criticise the country's research culls while it defends itself against mounting international criticism of the annual slaughter. Although he no longer works for the fleet, Kujira adds that he will continue to campaign behind the scenes, at great risk to his own safety, until the Japanese public learn the truth about the industry: "I dread to think what the other whalers would do to me if they knew who I was. They could do anything they wanted to me. I would be living in fear of my life."

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is bitterly divided over Japan's whaling programme. Under a proposal submitted by IWC chairman Cristian Maquieira, Japan would be permitted to resume commercial whaling for 10 years, but would have to adhere to strict quotas "significantly lower" than current ones.

Two other whaling nations, Iceland and Norway, would also be able to take part in the experiment. The three nations have killed 35,000 whales since the IWC ban went into effect in 1986. They would have to agree to other conditions, such as the presence of observers on ships, DNA registers of slaughtered whales and market sampling to detect illegal whaling. Campaigners fear the proposal could lead to a return to large-scale commercial whaling and say the IWC should be forcing whaling nations to end the culls altogether.

Japanese officials bribed six small nations with offers of cash and call girls in return for their votes in favor of slaughtering whales, according to a newspaper investigation.

In the 28 years since the world agreed to impose a moratorium on commercial whaling, a deal that was implemented four years later in 1986, one country in particular has been agitating for a lifting of the ban and a resumption of the mass slaughter. And all the while Japan has been doing deals with small countries that have votes on the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in an effort to lift the ban. Those efforts appear to be succeeding. The ban may be lifted for a 10-year period at a meeting in Morocco this month.

Today The Sunday Times exposes how Japan has been using underhand tactics to try to overturn the ban. Small nations on the IWC have been systemically bribed with overseas aid, cash payments in envelopes and the offer of prostitutes. Although long suspected, these revelations — exposed by undercover reporters offering alternative bribes to smaller IWC members to support a continuation of the ban — are still shocking.

Japan’s bribes, together with the apparent inability of the European Union to speak with one voice because of Denmark’s support for a resumption of whaling, mean that a decision of enormous importance for the planet looks like being nodded through. A vote to lift the ban will in effect have been bought.

Japan insists it is a coincidence that the countries it targets with overseas aid happen to be voting members of the IWC, most of them with no direct interest in whaling. That, however, does not explain cash in envelopes and the call girls. Japan pays for delegates to attend the meetings and gives them dollar handouts while they are there.

Blue whales, the true leviathans of the deep, are not only the largest animals alive on the planet today but probably the largest at any time in the world’s history, bigger even than the dinosaurs. We need to preserve the whale, not just for future generations but also as a repudiation of the past when our ancestors turned the oceans into bloody killing waters.

The Japanese do not see it that way. Even during the moratorium it used the loophole of scientific research for its annual slaughter in what is supposed to be a whale sanctuary in the Antarctic. Iceland and Norway ignored the ban and carried on whaling. Even under the moratorium, 35,000 whales were killed. But a partial ban was better than no ban at all.

If the IWC votes to lift it, Japan, together with Iceland and Norway, can kill 1,800 whales a year, including the endangered fin and sei whales. The exposure of these grubby dealings means the IWC must suspend any vote until it has established all the facts. The fate of these remarkable creatures should not be decided by brown envelopes and prostitutes.

Report: Japan Offered Prostitutes to Sway Whaling Votes

Japanese officials bribed six small nations with offers of cash and call girls in return for their votes in favor of slaughtering whales, according to a newspaper investigation.

If all the nations present at next week's IWC meeting vote in favor of overturning the whaling moratorium, whaling nations will be able to kill 1,800 whales a year. Japan is believed to have the backing of at least 38 of the IWC's 88 members, including three landlocked countries. It needs 66 votes, or 75 percent of the vote.

The Sunday Times said that Japanese officials bribed the countries with cash payments distributed at IWC meetings by Japanese officials who also paid their travel and hotel bills. One official told the Times that call girls were offered when fisheries ministers and civil servants visited Japan for meetings.

The top fisheries official for Guinea said Japan slipped his minister a "minimum" of $1,000 a day spending money in cash during IWC and other fisheries meetings. He said three Japanese organizations were used to channel the payments to his country: the fisheries agency, the aid agency and the Overseas Fisheries Co-operation Foundation. Tanzanian officials told the Times reporters that "good girls" were made available at the hotels for ministers and senior fisheries civil servants during all-expenses paid trips to Japan.

Palau is ending its support for Japan’s scientific whaling program in favour of the catch quota proposal being considered by the International Whaling Commission.

Toribiong said he planned to announce the shift in Palau’s whaling policy at the U.N. General Assembly last September, when he declared Palau the world’s first shark sanctuary. But Japan asked him to delay the whaling announcement. Last week, a Japanese whaling expert visited Palau to seek its continued support at the whaling commission meeting in Morocco. The envoy, Kenro Iino, told Palauan officials current levels of hunting would not deplete any whale species. He also said whales consume much more fish than humans do, so an overabundance of whales could threaten global fish stocks.

Tokyo Court’s message, “defend whale, go to jail”? Majority of Japanese people do not eat whale meat.

The Tokyo Two trial has come to end in Japan with the prosecutor asking the judge to sentence defendants Junichi and Toru to 18 months in jail. This would be the longest jail term for any Greenpeace member in the organisation's 40 year history.

As you may know, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki - better known as the Tokyo Two - are on trial for intercepting a box of whale meat as part of an investigation into an embezzlement ring within Japan's taxpayer-funded 'research' whaling programme.

The Japanese government subsidises the loss-making whaling programme to the tune of US$5 million a year, making the embezzlement of whale meat exposed by Junichi and Toru a significant crime. But instead of the criminals behind the embezzlement facing justice, it's the Toyko Two who find themselves in the dock.

Meanwhile on World Oceans Day (Jun 8), Junichi wrote a personal message to supporters from Aomori in Japan where the trial has just concluded.

Dear friends,

I am happy to be able to send this message from Tokyo to you today and thank you for your support. Greenpeace has been peacefully protesting for environmental protection for decades. What started in one man's front room in Vancouver, before I was even born, is now a global force for good.

You're helping to keep that history and tradition alive. But as my colleague Toru Suzuki and I know all too well, speaking up for our fragile earth can pose serious risks.

June 8th is World Oceans Day. We can celebrate the fact that we know so much more about our blue planet than ever before. We have sent submarines to the deepest canyons and sailed every part of the world, discovering new species and ecosystems - and how they are connected. We have seen how overfishing just one species can have devastating effects on an entire ecosystem and we understand the urgent need to protect our oceans. With your help we have been taking direct action and campaigning to save our seas.

In Japan we have been working to end whaling since our office opened 20 years ago. Japanese whaling is one of the most extreme examples of the needless waste of ocean life. Two years ago along with my colleague Toru, we took action to turn the tide on whaling here at home in Japan.

And for the last two years we have paid the price for that peaceful protest. We were arrested and held without charge for 23 days - tied to chairs while we were interrogated, without our lawyers present. We have been charged with theft and trespass for taking action to secure the evidence of organised theft and embezzlement at the highest levels.

I know what I did was right. Our prosecution is political and our human rights have been abused. Despite that, and despite countless protests worldwide, Toru and I may still go to jail, for up to 10 years.

We're in court again on World Oceans Day - for the final part of our trial. So, I reach out to you, my fellow Rainbow Warrior, to make sure that your voice is heard loud and clear here in Tokyo. Please send a letter to the Japanese foreign minister telling him to prosecute the real whaling criminals and defend our right to save our planet.

Junichi Sato

Japan prosecutors seek jail for anti-whaling man

Captain Peter Bethune, 45, is accused of causing chemical burns to the face of a whaler with a rancid butter stink bomb and four other charges. Japan hunts whales under a loophole to an international moratorium that allows killing of the ocean giants for "scientific research" although it does not hide the fact that the meat is sold in shops and restaurants.

Bethune, in his final statement, which he tearfully delivered in Japanese, said: "I did not have the intention of hurting crew members. I took action because I wanted to stop Japan's illegal whaling. Japan says it is conducting research whaling but it is conducting commercial whaling that is prohibited, and many countries in the world acknowledge that. Whaling is cruel... And the whales are immediately processed on the Nisshin Maru, and the meat turns up as food in Japan."

The Sea Shepherd group pursued and harassed Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters for months in the 2009-2010 season, a campaign which both sides say reduced the Japanese cull by several hundred whales. Bethune was detained in February after he boarded the Japanese fleet's Shonan Maru II during its annual cull of the sea mammals. The New Zealander was captain of the futuristic powerboat the Ady Gil (Earthrace) which sank after a collision with the Shonan Maru II, and Bethune wanted to make a citizen's arrest of its captain and charge him for the sunken boat.

The verdict date was set for July 7.

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Greenpeace, Legal Planet, ThundaFunda, and /

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