Shall we talk about whales and whaling


To whale or not to whale … THAT should be the question

I was simply amazed when I read a small online Japanese article about a week ago. It was reporting the departure of three whaling ships from Shimonoseki, former whaling town in the western Japan, heading for the Antarctic. I was amazed not that I was surprised by the fact that the Japanese had decided to return to the Antarctic yet again but that one official from the Japanese Fisheries Agency was quoted as saying that they had beefed up the fleet’s security level to counter the attack from activists and they were releasing the information beforehand because it may work as a “deterrent effect” .

Excuse me? Deterrent effect? Are you serious?

Whaling funded by disaster relief money

If they are serious about this strategy, they have definitely failed in reading the activists’ mind. Am I wrong in assuming that Paul Watson & the Co. would take it as a provocation and intensify their violent acts? They love to be challenged, don’t they?

A couple of days later, I came across another news piece regarding the Japanese scientific whaling in the Antarctic. This time it was on an Australian radio program. The ABC’s AM reported on 7 December about the fleet’s departure, the upgrade of its security and the source to fund the security . They said that the Japan’s earthquake “recovery fund” was used and added that the anger was rising in Japan and elsewhere about the fact.

Oh, really?

And then there was an interview of Paul Watson. He said “I know here’s a lot of angry people who said ‘Look I didn’t send my money to help the victims of the tsunami only to have you use it to go down south and kill whales’”.


What has the money sent to Japan by individuals, organisations and nations around the world in good will got to do with the extra funding of the security measure of the whaling fleet?

By that afternoon, the Australian media was flooded by articles and comments regarding the claim. “Whaling funded by disaster relief money” (Perth Now), “Japan uses $28.5m in disaster funds for whaling: claim” (Sydney Morning Herald) and so on. Comments like “If true, I bet the people who donated to the Tsunami appeal feel like idiots now. …” (Perth Now) appeared on the website.


The articles were really confusing. For example, Andrew Darby’s article “Anger over disaster funding for whaling” (Canberra Times) clearly writes that the money came from “a part of special budget [of the Japanese Government] for recovery from the March 11 triple disaster” . However, he mixes the budget story with the donation/relief fund story and is making readers confused. If you’re not a researcher who is particularly curious about this issue, who really cares paying attention to those details?

Australian politicians’ comments in the article made the situation even more confusing. Bob Brown said “Australians would be horrified to find the funds helping to finance whale killing …” and Shadow Environment Minister Greg Hunt said “the Federal Government urgently needed to ensure no donated funds had gone to support whaling”.

In addition, it was reported that the Environment Minister Tony Burke “rejected the need for any spending on Japanese whaling, ‘regardless of where the money is coming from’”.

When did Burke become a Japanese MP?

So the next day, on 8 December, the Japanese Embassy in Canberra was forced to release a statement saying “None of the donations made in support of relief and recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami have been used or will be used to fund Japan’s Scientific Whaling Research Program”. As far as I am aware of, this was only reported in full in the Herald Sun (and Adelaide Now) .

Even Junichi Sato, the executive director of Greenpeace Japan had to tweet on his Japanese twitter “(stating that it’s) a relief fund is not accurate. It’s mistaken for tax money” and “I’m against scientific whaling but this kind of lie should not be circulated” .

Then, at the end of last week, there came news that the Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, bodies which are responsible for the scientific research whaling, had “filed a lawsuit against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Paul Watson in the United States” seeking the safety at sea .

And THEN, it was the Sea Shepherd’s turn. It slammed the Greenpeace Japan for condemning the NGO “for accusing the Japanese whaling industry of using funds, earmarked for the Tsunami Earthquake Relief Fund, to provide security for its fleet” .

The latest news from Tokyo is that Joe Ludwig, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, told his Japanese counterpart Kano Michihiko that the Australian police and coast guards were investigating a case which the Sea Shepherd’s attacked the Japanese fleet last season which made the Japanese to cut short of their schedule .

In Australia, it was reported that Australia along with other three nations – the United State, New Zealand and the Netherlands – released a statement which insists on the illegality of the Japanese scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean and shows their disappointment .

The issue on whaling is getting chaotic, yet again. And yet, the research program hasn’t even started. It is unfortunate that all parties are distracted from the core of this controversy and are more interested in the crash between the Sea Shepherd and the Japanese fleet. “To whale or not to whale”, shouldn’t that be the question?

For Japan, this is becoming a chilly and bitter winter’s tale. In Australia, it is like a midsummer madness. Is Puck around to fix this up? Or is it Puck who has made this much much ado??