Ahead of Critical Meeting on Whaling, Japan Accused of Buying Votes

By Andrew Moseman | June 15, 2010 11:46 am

whaleAnd now, a sordid story about whaling.

This weekend, The Sunday Times of London published an expose charging the Japanese government with using foreign aid, cash, and even call girls to bribe nations on the International Whaling Commission into voting Japan’s way and supporting the country’s whaling.

Japan denies buying the votes of IWC members. However, The Sunday Times filmed officials from pro-whaling governments admitting:
– They voted with the whalers because of the large amounts of aid from Japan. One said he was not sure if his country had any whales in its territorial waters. Others are landlocked.
– They receive cash payments in envelopes at IWC meetings from Japanese officials who pay their travel and hotel bills.
– One disclosed that call girls were offered when fisheries ministers and civil servants visited Japan for meetings [The Times].

The full story is full of slimy details, like the allegation that Japan paid for Guinea’s IWC membership and that the latter country’s minister demanded a car and spending money, or the Tanzanian minister’s assertion that prostitutes would be made available in exchange for support. But most importantly, the story comes out with a crucial IWC meeting on the horizon. The annual get-together is in Morocco this month, where the nations will debate a possible end to the moratorium that dates back to 1986.

As we’ve noted before in a slew of stories about Japan’s controversial whaling, the nation is allowed to harvest some whales—just less than 1,000 per year—in the name of scientific research. But if the new measure passes in Morocco, that changes. The moratorium would be lifted in exchange for whaling nations promising to reduce their catch totals over 10 years. Japan has renewed its occasional threat to withdraw from the IWC if the ban stays in place.

Meanwhile, the bad press continues for the Japanese whaling. The Guardian has the story of a whistle-blower who formerly worked on a whaling ship and goes by the anonymous pseudonym “Kujira-san” (Mr Whale).

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” [The Guardian].

Related Content:
80beats: Will Commercial Whale Hunts Soon Be Authorized?
80beats: Videos Show Collision Between Japanese Whaling Ship & Protesters
80beats: Is the Whaling Ban Really the Best Way to Save the Whales?
80beats: Controversial Deal Could Allow Japan To Hunt More Whales

Image: Flickr/ Rene Ehrhardt

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • m


    Discover is a magazine about science.

    This reads more like a tabloid. Which is why I cancelled my subscription last year after being a loyal subscriber for years.

    The editors need to go back and look at old issues of Discover – go back 12 years and look at the content and format.

    In other words…go back to your roots.

  • bigjohn756

    “The moratorium would be lifted in exchange for whaling nations promising to reduce their catch totals over 10 years.”

    There will probably be no choice to reduce their catch by then.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “Discover is a magazine about science.”

    And this story is about science.

  • http://www.team-tcp.com Doug from Dougland

    Very sad science at that.

  • EdF

    I’m against whaling 100%, but this is not a science article. Glad I read it, disgusted that whaling will increase, but it’s still not a science article.

    Don’t think it’s quite a tabloid either though. Environmental, as in save the whales not combat global warming, for sure.

  • m

    meh – then i concede it is near “tabloidish”.

    i too am disheartened at the corruption and the mindless killing of all these whales.

    but i stand by my statement – this is not a science article. this is someone with a soapbox.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “but i stand by my statement – this is not a science article.”

    Then you are still wrong. Ecology and environmental sciences — both clearly scientific disciplines — often have to study human interaction with the environment and the impact which human policies have on the environment and the constituent species in the environment. Anyone who attempts to study whales and who is attempting to make projection about the heath of these various species into the future must assess the political and policy actions of countries like japan and the other whaling states, as their actions will have a direct impact on these species. This article simply explains some of those policies.

    “this is someone with a soapbox.”

    Not really. When it comes to the japanese and whaling, all one has to do is present the facts and any rational, moral human will be repulsed by the japanese actions. That’s not being on a soapbox, that’s being a thinking, rational human being. (And even if this post was on “a soapbox,” there’s nothing wrong with that. There are some pathetic folks out there who completely fall apart at the notion that their views might be challenged by others, and therefore demand strict quarantine of any idea that might counter their precious worldviews. Such people should be laughed at, not catered to.)

  • m


    we are so blessed to that you would take to the time to enlighten us how we are all wrong.

    you see everybody? we should all strive to have Woody’s wisdom, knowledge and insights.

    he has nearly reached the divine mind.

    a releif too! whew

    we can all stop thinking now…Woody will tell us what we need to know.

  • Woody Tanaka

    “we can all stop thinking now…”

    Oh, m, it’s pretty clear that you stopped thinking a long time ago.


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