Japan and the Politics of Extinction

Maria Micallef, Malta, LAWS Member

For a copy of the background research document to this article, please contact Wally Burley at 07833 664032 or walter@burley57.wanadoo.co.uk.

As many animal welfare activists will be aware the establishment of the International Whaling Commission was to regulate whaling with its primary role being to end commercial whaling and regulate whaling to ensure the prevention of unnecessary whaling and prevent the extinction of rare whale species. Since its inception a key member and controversial advocate of whaling has been Japan , who have campaigned endlessly for the right to continue whaling without regulation. The IWC provides a forum for both pro whaling and anti whaling nations, pro whaling nations like Japan use the auspices of scientific research to continue their whaling activities, as it also serves their apparent requirement for whale meat, which under the rules of the IWC cannot be wasted. However it is currently reported that there is an excess of whale meat therefore a number of anti whaling nations propose the argument that whaling should stop because neither is it needed for scientific research when there are other methods that can be used and with the reducing demand for whale meat the process is becoming an unnecessary slaughter of the mammals.

The original purpose of the IWC as enshrined in the 1946 International Convention for the regulation of Whaling states that it should “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”. This statement has been interpreted in two ways by the anti and pro whaling nations. The anti whaling nations like Australia and the United Kingdom feel that in short based on the original statement the role of the IWC should be one that ensures that whaling is not carried out unnecessarily to protect the lives of thousands of whales, however pro whaling nations like Japan interpret the role of the IWC to be one of a regulating body that sets quotas ensuring that stocks are sustainable and regulates the act of whaling rather than aiming to stop it all together. Consequentially meetings of the IWC are often the location of heated discussion on the issue and many nations seek the support of other nations to assist them in their argument.

In recent years it has become apparent that Japan has been using its financial power to win the support of a number of nations on the issue of whaling at the IWC, this article focuses on Japan ’s actions to ensure the support of a number of small nations located in the Pacific Ocean and some countries in Africa . In particular there have been many reports surrounding 12 small nations where Japan has provided financial assistance in the form of grants and other financial programmes for which in return Japan expects their unequivocal support. Taking each nation in turn it will become apparent that these countries in many cases do not have whaling interests and in fact some benefit from the presence of whales near their shores as a source of revenue for the area of tourism. Some have even commented that their membership of the IWC is solely a result of the pressure placed by Japan on these countries to the point that Japan also meets the cost of their subscription fees to be members of the Whaling Commission.

Taking each of these nations in turn it will become apparent as to what benefits they have enjoyed as a result of their support for Japan ;

Antigua and Barbuda is an island nation located in the Eastern Caribbean Sea , which has been an independent state since 1981 and has a population of just under 83,000. As a member of the IWC and advocate of Japan ’s stance on the issue of whaling the nation’s government is due to receive from the Japanese Government 17.02 million US dollars for the development of two fishing landings and storage complexes. Demonstrating the strongest hint yet that the reason for Antigua and Barbuda’s support for the Japanese on the issue of whaling is a direct result of the financial aid the country receives the Planning Minister Gastron Browne was asked whether their vote in support of Japan at the IWC was a factor in the country receiving the grant he commented “If we were to antagonise them I imagine that they would not be so anxious to assist us.

It would appear that this is also the case for the Republic of Cameroon , known for being one of the most corrupt governments in the world with a poor human rights record it comes as no surprise to find Cameroon as one of the 12 nations listed to be voting with Japan at the IWC in return for financial assistance. Over the past years Japan has made a number of significant contributions to the country. It has been recorded that between 1951 and 1998 Japan has accumulatively invested 1,276 million yen and have also provided the Republic of Cameroon with 10.5 billion yen in loans, 10.1 billion yens in grants and 2 billion yen in technical assistance.

The Republic of the Gambia is a country in Western Africa, which in February 1965 became independent from the former British Empire and joined the Commonwealth. Japan in exchange for Gambia ‘s support at the IWC announced in July of this year that it was funding a multi million dalasi fish market. The grant which amounts to around 630 million Japanese yen is to provide extensive facilities for the coastal area of Brikama and additionally it will also mean that a new water supply system will be installed to maintain a healthy hygienic environment.

Grenada is an island nation, which includes the southern Grenadines in the South eastern Caribbean Sea and has a population of 900,343. Grenada has benefited via cultural grant aid from Japan , which amounts to 46.6 million yen over almost 30 years (between 1975 and 2004). Japan is also fiscally known as Grenada ‘s top ranking donor. In return for the financial assistance Grenada demonstrated their anti whaling stance in 2001 when they made a number of statements against the IWC’s proposal for a whale sanctuary, which was due to be discussed at a meeting of the IWC in the June of 2001. Prior to this particular meeting Japan had allegedly bribed government officials to oppose the proposal for the whale sanctuary, all of the officials in question had made their very vocal opposition to the whale sanctuary whilst driving brand new Japanese made SUVs.

The republic of Kiribati is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean , which is a member of the commonwealth with a population of 110,356. Japan has been a financial supporter of Kiribati via official development assistance. The project is for the second phase of the upgrading of the electric power supply in Tarawa costing the equivalent of 1,350,000 US dollars. The first phase of the project was also funded by Japan at an approximate cost of 10.1 million dollars. An enhanced power system has the benefits once fully implemented of reaching the citizens of Kiribati in terms of convenience, cost and reliability. This is part of ongoing financial support provided by Japan to Kiribati aiming to assist their development and long term goal of economic stability. It is important to note that Kiribati has been a staunch supporter of the Japanese and their pro whaling stance at the various meetings of the IWC.

The Republic of Nauru is an island nation in the Micronesian South Pacific, which is a member of the Commonwealth with a population of 13,770. In 2007 Japan approved a proposal to supply Nauru with grant assistance under their Human Security Projects Programme. They signed a commitment to the government of Nauru which began with 45 new water tanks worth nearly 76 thousand US dollars to assist their problems with water shortages. Japan on approving the assistance highlighted their hope that the assistance provided would help strengthen the friendly ties between the two countries.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea with a population of 118,432. As part of their Overseas Development Aid Japan has awarded the island with various grants on various auspices from the education of young children to the maintenance of their hospitals. As a whaling nation Japan has also provided substantial financial assistance to the Bequia Indigenous Whalers Association, as it is one of the only nations that the IWC allows to hunt whales but they have a limit of 4 per year and have to use the traditional method of hand thrown harpoons from small open sailing boats and it is very rare that they reach their limit, in fact some years they don’t catch any at all.

Tuvalu , which is formerly known as the Ellice Islands is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean , which is midway between Hawaii and Australia , which has a population of just 12,177 and is the second smallest member of the United Nations in terms of population. Despite their closeness with Australia , the government of Tuvalu does not support their views with regards to the issue of whaling. Japan has provided financial assistance to the country for various water projects including a desalination plant and they also plan to build another one for them. By 1998 the Japanese had accumulatively invested over 25 million US dollars in the country. In return it has been noted that the representatives of Tuvalu at the IWC vote along side Japan and therefore come down on the side of the pro-whalers.

The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis is a federal two island nation located in the West Indies , it is an independent commonwealth realm, which has Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and has a population of 42,696. In 2005 Japan awarded a grant of 5,609,090 million dollars for their project for Artisanal

Fisheries Development and in September 2004 they had given the country 18,425 dollars. In return for the grant Japan won the declaration of St. Kitts at the IWC, this meant that Japan and the whaling lobby had finally gained a simple majority at the IWC where 33 countries voted in favour of what has become known as the ‘St Kitts Declaration’, which stated that the IWC had failed to meet its obligations under the terms of the ICRW and they further went on to say that it would be working to normalize the functions of the IWC upon the terms of the ICRW. Therefore it is more than apparent that following Japan ‘s financial investment in the country they are in exchange providing the Japanese with very vocal support on the issue of whaling at the IWC.

The Solomon Islands is a country in Melanesia located east of Papua New Guinea , which consists of about 1000 islands and has a total population of 581,318. The islands are characterised by weak political parties and highly unstable parliamentary coalitions and therefore it is no surprise that with these circumstances financial assistance provided by Japan to the people of the islands via the development of an 8 million US dollar jetty has in turn been rewarded via their support for Japan at the meetings of the IWC. In actual fact it has been recorded by former government officials that Japan paid for the island’s pro whaling vote and additionally also paid the costs of the island’s representatives attending the IWC and more concerning have also given pay offs to many of the Island’s politicians and have made significant election contributions to the different political parties. At the present time the Solomon Islands appear to be supportive of Japan however the Prime Minister of the islands has made assurances to the Australian Government about their stance on pro whaling and their plan to review it accordingly. With this in mind it is unclear as to how the islands will proceed as it would appear that they are attempting to accommodate both sides of the discussion, which is an impossible quest.

The Commonwealth of Dominica , which is another small island located in the Caribbean Sea with its promise to assist Japan at the IWC have also benefited from the Japanese via a 12.2 million US dollar fisheries project. However the relationship between the two countries has been short-lived, what began in 2004 at an IWC meeting has now recently ended with a statement issued earlier this year by the Dominican Government stating that they will no longer vote with Japan on the issue of commercial whaling.

Despite Japan ‘s strong verbal protests that they are not in the habit of buying votes at the IWC, it is apparent that the evidence suggests otherwise. Japan is not likely to give up their pro whaling stance however looking at the Solomon Islands and the Commonwealth of Dominica it is apparent that countries to which Japan provide financial assistance are considering their options and some may not necessarily be voting with them again. This is something that we hope will spread to the other countries and that they too will reassess the situation.