Press Esc to close
Friday 18 August 2017
News updated at 7:50 PM IST

Japan props up its whaling industry

Hiroko Tabuchi, Feb 12, 2013, New York Times News Service: 22:57 IST
A wildlife conservation group said in a report recently that Japan has been propping up its whaling industry with nearly $400 million in tax money in recent years, stepping up subsidies even as consumption of whale meat in the country has slumped.

The report, compiled by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, in Yarmouth Port, Mass., challenges assertions by the Japanese government that whaling is a tradition with wide support among Japanese consumers.

Instead, the Japanese government figures tallied in the report paint a picture of a struggling industry employing fewer than 1,000 people and dependent on public handouts, including money meant for reconstruction after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

Most Japanese consumers have turned away from whale meat. The industry shipped just 5,000 tons in 2011, compared with 2,33,000 tons at the peak in 1962, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Demand this year is so low that the industry has cut its planned shipments by half, to 2,400 tons.

“Whaling is unprofitable, and survives only with substantial subsidies, something cultural and nationalist arguments for whaling obscure,” said Patrick Ramage, the director of the animal welfare fund’s whale programme. He said the country would be better off economically and ecologically if it promoted whale-watching tourism instead of hunting whales.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency declined to comment on the report, saying it had not yet studied its contents. But an official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there was “nothing wrong with these subsidies, which fund an important programme,” though it was “not the government’s responsibility to make whaling economically viable.”

A world moratorium on commercial whaling took effect in 1986, but Japan has taken advantage of an exception allowing whaling for research purposes to continue hunting, though environmental activists who chase whaling boats have made those hunts increasingly difficult. Japan has captured and killed more than 14,000 whales since the moratorium began.

The meat from the whales is sold off as “byproducts” of research, and it makes its way to supermarkets, restaurants and even school lunches. A government website says the most popular whale dishes are fried whale, whale sashimi and medium-rare whale steak.

According to figures from the Institute of Cetacean Research, the nonprofit organisation set up to run the whaling programme, income from whale meat has failed to cover the costs of whaling for the past five years. So subsidies have been increased, and some disaster aid has been diverted to the industry, prompting a public outcry.

The dire financial picture prompted the government to announce a plan last year to cut costs by reducing the annual catch and to sell more whale meat directly to schools for lunches. But experts doubt that those measures will make the whaling industry self-sufficient again.

“The Japanese government has desperately defended whaling for years, but the question has increasingly become: for what?” said Yusuke Saskata, a professor of environmental economics at Kinki University in Osaka.
“Supporting whaling culture is one thing, but maintaining whaling at this scale makes no sense.”

Go to Top

Photo Gallery
A fruit vendor, holding an umbrella, waits for customers at a street in Kolkata on Thursday.

A fruit vendor, holding an umbrella, waits for customers at a street in Kolkata on Thursday.

Ranbir Kapoor, actor and co-owner Mumbai City FC meeting fans during the Indian Super League...

Ranbir Kapoor, actor and co-owner Mumbai City FC meeting fans during the Indian Super League...

India's Ramandeep Singh in action against Austria in their final encounter of the Europe Tour...

India's Ramandeep Singh in action against Austria in their final encounter of the Europe Tour...

People from Parsi community cut a cake to celebrate their new year, Navroze, in Ahmedabad on ...

People from Parsi community cut a cake to celebrate their new year, Navroze, in Ahmedabad on ...

Nail artist Murari Aditya, 75 years, shows his 38 inch long nails, at his residence in Kolkata ...

Nail artist Murari Aditya, 75 years, shows his 38 inch long nails, at his residence in Kolkata ...

The first batch of Dasara elephants being welcomed on their arrival at Mysuru Palace on Thursday.

The first batch of Dasara elephants being welcomed on their arrival at Mysuru Palace on Thursday.

: Participants struggle during a greased-pole climbing competition held as a part of independence...

: Participants struggle during a greased-pole climbing competition held as a part of independence...

Activist Irom Sharmila with her husband British citizen Desmond Coutinha after getting married...

Activist Irom Sharmila with her husband British citizen Desmond Coutinha after getting married...

A visitor looks at an art installation, symbolizing the partition of India and Pakistan...

A visitor looks at an art installation, symbolizing the partition of India and Pakistan...

Artist Sunil Paul gives finishing touches on a statue of St. Mother Teresa at his studio...

Artist Sunil Paul gives finishing touches on a statue of St. Mother Teresa at his studio...

Like us on Facebook

Copyright 2017, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523
Powered by Yodasoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd.