The International Fund for Animal Welfare IFAW has recently published an enlightening report which proves the untruth of Japan’s claim that commercial whaling is a cultural and nutritional necessity.
Commercial whaling in Japan is an industry that is not profitable and only exists because of taxpayer subsidies, that provide a product to a shrinking and ageing market.
Taxpayers Subsidise Money-Losing Industry
• The whaling ﬂeet is heavily subsidised by taxpayer money funnelled through the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR).
• Subsidies average around ¥782 million (US$9.78 million) annually.*
• Despite these subsidies, the ICR continues to operate at a loss. Whaling simply is not commercially viable.
Demand for Whale Meat Falls While Stockpiles Grow
• Whale meat consumption in Japan peaked in the 1960s and has steadily decreased thereafter so that today whale meat consumption is approximately 1 percent of its peak.
• Current stockpiles of unsold whale meat have increased to nearly 5,000 tonnes and are more than four times greater today than they were 15 years ago.
• Between 2011 and 2012, the whaling industry attempted to boost income and reduce stockpiles by holding a series of whale meat auctions. These auctions were total failures, and three-quarters of the meat went unsold.
Earthquake Relief Funds and Additional Subsidies Diverted
• Over the past 25 years, direct whaling subsidies from the Ministry of Agriculture alone have cost Japanese taxpayers more than ¥30 billion (almost US$400 million).
• While other needs went unmet, earthquake reconstruction funds to the tune of ¥2.28 billion (US$28.55 million) were diverted from tsunami relief to support “research whaling, stabilization promotion, and countermeasure expenses” for the ICR.
• Most recently, the industry has received a substantial loan, backed by guarantees from the government of Japan, to reﬁt the factory ship of the whaling ﬂeet, with a view to maintaining the ﬂeet for at least another decade.
Polls: Indifference to Whaling, Opposition to Funding• A majority of Japanese—54.7 percent—are indiﬀerent to whaling.
• Only 27 percent of respondents in Japan say they support whaling, and only 11 percent do so strongly.
• 89 percent say they have not bought any whale meat in the last 12 months.
• 85 percent expressed opposition to the use of billions of taxpayer yen to build a new factory ship.
Foreign aid used to buy Whaling Support
• The Japanese government has engaged in a concerted eﬀort to change the direction of the IWC by recruiting new members to vote on its side.
• This recruitment process involved using Grant Aid for Fisheries, a subset of Overseas Development Aid.
• International media reports revealed that payments were made to delegates in envelopes prior to IWC meetings covering air fares, rooms and entertainment, and membership dues.
Scientific Whaling Is Not Scientific
• The government of Japan developed scientiﬁc whaling as a means to continue commercial whaling following the IWC’s 1982 vote to establish a commercial whaling moratorium.
• The more than 14,000 whales killed by Japanese whaling ﬂeets since 1988 far exceed the total of all other countries’ scientiﬁc whaling programmes combined throughout history.
• Despite Japan’s claims that scientiﬁc whaling conducts valuable research, in 2006 the IWCs Scientiﬁc Committee found that the research had failed to achieve any of its stated objectives.
The Solution: Whale Watching, Not Whaling
• Even as whale meat declines in popularity and whaling declines in proﬁtability, the whale watching industry has been growing in Japan.
• After a small start, the whale watching industry has grown strongly, at an annual average rate of 6.4 percent.
• In 2008, whale watching in Japan generated ¥1.76 billion (Us$22 million) in total revenue.
The commercial whaling industry is drawing breath now only because it is on life support in the form of taxpayer subsidies. It is time to end those subsidies and allow the industry to die a natural and long overdue death. Whale watching, not whaling, is the industry with a future.