Disarming the anti-whalers

I’m not really sure how to interpret this story.

AUSTRALIAN Federal Police, who yesterday raided the anti-whaling ship the Steve Irwin, did so at the request of pro-whaling Japanese authorities.

Is this a move against the right of ship owners to bear arm? Is it an anti-piracy measure? Is it one government defending another? Is it an amusing piece of symbolic disappointment for the green left who must now watch on as the Rudd government demonstrates that it is less sympathetic to the anti-whalers than the Howard government? There are too many ways to spin this. You tell me.

23 thoughts on “Disarming the anti-whalers

  1. It has nothing to do with “the right to bear arms” It has to do with the attacks committed by Paul Watson and the “Steve Irwin” when he rammed two Japanese ships and violated multiple UN maritime laws

  2. Paul Watson might suggest that he was endeavouring to effect a citizens arrest. However I agree with the general thrust of your comment. Still I don’t think their behaviour is entirely new. Why were they not “policed” under the previous administration.

  3. On the surface it appears that the Australian Federal Police are now an agent of the Japanese Government.

    As for the videos. Let the world see them and we can all be the judge.

    My relatives fought and died in WW2 as Canadians to help that never happen in Australia or in any of our other allies.

    Are you Aussies going to learn to speak Japanese next?

    Might as well start.

  4. I already speak Japanese, Dave.

    I’m not sure how to interpret this either, Terje. I mean, I think the protesters are silly for protesting eating a particular type of meat over other types of meat. But they have a right to protest, too. It’s almost a battle of statists, though…

  5. Another tangent, this tangent being protein, in the 90’s I used to purchase a magazine called comic relief and it had a month of political cartoons and columns from US newspapers check your local comic shop they may be able to order it if it is still around. One of the side articles was I think by a fellow called Dr Science.

    It was mentioned that if the world cultivated an area and grew soy beans the amount of space required to grow enough to feed the worlds starving population would be the same area the US used for beef production.

    For me the problem with the Japanese whalers is a lack of sustainability, if allowed they would catch all the whales until there were none left. I recall a whaling ship in the 70’s sinking from being overloaded.

  6. My point about disarmament was that the article seemed to suggest that they’re being investigated for having weapons not for using them. And if you can use your ship as a weapon by raming other ships then maybe we should ban ships.

    Eric – if Japan stopped subsidising the whaling industry it would collapse.

  7. @TerjeP
    I disagree with you, the profit motive would keep whaling going if restrictions were lifted. Ambergris, oil, meat. All products people will pay for.

    Given the uncertainty with whaling at present it is no surprise the government is keeping the industry afloat.


    Sustainability is a problem with any resource that is not farmed or cultivated by men, we have pine plantations, fruit trees, there are tuna farms, oyster farms and salmon farms.

    Unless there is profit in sustainable guaranteed supply it will be over harvested.

  8. Eric – the issue isn’t whether people will pay but how much they will pay. And whether the diseconomies of scale would leave the industry viable.

  9. It’s silly to blame the profit motive for exploitation to the point where an industry collapses. It’s simply counter-intuitive. An industry must be able to generate sustainable profits or it won’t attract investment.

    Where fishing or whaling have collapsed in the past, governments have invariably contributed significantly.

    I think the Japanese are perfectly entitled to hunt whales and eat them. The Japanese government subsidises all its domestic food industries so it’s not doing anything different by subsidising whaling. But if the whaling does threaten whale populations (which is not the case at the moment), the subsidy will be a major factor.

    As for the Sea Shepherd mob, they have a right to peaceful protest. But I really hope they stop being peaceful so the Japanese can sink their ship. (I have a little list. They’d really not be missed.)

    They may have already crossed that line – the Japanese are planning to pursue them for piracy and sought the help of the AFP to collect evidence. It’s covered by an international treaty. We’d expect the Japanese police to help us if a group in Japan was engaged in criminal activity against one of our legal industries, subsidised or not.

  10. I am not blaming profit motive for exploitation and collapse, rather saying that profit motive is responsible for sustainable enterprises like fish farms that only seem to be viable as the price rises due to scarcity and or demand.

    Farms I have read about generally supply the restaurant trade as they need a guaranteed supply, quality and price.

    As the price of things like blue fin tuna skyrocket due to asian demand fish farming becomes viable.

    One of my cookbooks mentions a marron farm in Western Australia supplying a restaurant in Melbourne.

    As another digression the book The Myth of the Robber Barons by Burton Folsom mentions Standard Oil and how it stopped the killing of whales by American fleets for lamp oil as the price of burning kerosine was reduced to one cent per hour.

    Another side effect was people stopped working from sunup to sundown and could read and educate themselves at night time and also cottage industries also worked by lamp light.

    This is a very interesting book and concerns itself with free trade versus government sponsored businesses.

    @ TerjeP
    I agree that if whaling is not sustainable then it would collapse without government assistance.

    I am making an assumption that whaling is not currently viable due to restrictions on its practice and if restrictions were lifted then it would be viable.

    I just had a google search and apparently the cost to the Japanese Government is One billion dollars a year for 5000 tonnes of whale meat. 6.5 billion costs 5.2 billion in proceeds from selling the meat.

    So it would seem to be unsustainable. I guess my earlier assumption is incorrect.

  11. My apologies for a second post in a row, here is part of an article about the current price of whale meat.

    As retailers across the globe struggle to fight the recession, a Japanese department store has launched a bargain sale of whale meat to drum up consumer spending.

    Hankyu Department Store’s main outlet in the western industrial hub of Osaka chose whale meat for price cuts as it believes it was the quintessential food of the nation when it rose from the ashes of World War II.

    The store now sells 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of red meat of sei whale at 248 yen (S$4.20), less than half the regular price of 630 yen and roughly the level of 30 years ago.

    The same weight of skin goes for 420 yen, compared with 945 yen.

  12. The actions of the Australian Federal Police are consistent with international law. It is nothing about whaling. After all, the Australian Government supports peaceful protests both on sea and on land. Instead, it is a simple criminal matter. The AFP are just gathering evidence to help in any decision on whether to prosecute Paul Watson.

  13. People have a right to protest, but they do not have a right to commit acts of piracy on the high seas. Whether you are a protester or not, you can not go and ram other ships or try to disable them in other ways without getting in to trouble.

    Regarding subsidies, Japan’s pelagic “whaling industry” currently consists of a single fleet which is publicly owned which is involved in a non-profit scientific operation. What they are doing indeed ought to be under the supervision of the Japanese government, because the Japanese public should not expect that if the operation were conducted under supervision of the “whaling industry” (which currently does not exist) the data would be unbiased. That’s why its under government control and funding. A further improvement to the current situation would be if the research was done under international auspices, but the reality is that with anti-whalers such as Australia wrecking the IWC this is not feasible.

    Japan already can catch as many whales as they like under special permit. The fact that they are catching 850 minkes a year today when they were catching upwards of 5,000 (under IWC quotas) until just prior to the 1987/88 commercial moratorium indicates that they are showing plenty of restraint with respect to sustainability of their whaling operations.

    Over harvest of marine resources is a problem due to various factors – lack of appropriate compliance measures is a primary one, another is a lack of appropriate scientific knowledge and advice. In other areas even when there is scientific advice, the politicians ignore it for socio-ecomonic reasons (see European tuna fisheries). At least with respect to whaling all of these issues are mute today in 2009.

    As for the viability of whale meat in Japan, the fact that Iceland’s commercial whalers are looking to export meat from 150 fin whales to the Japanese market should give us some hints about whether it’s economically sustainable or not. At least the Icelandic whalers appear to think it is.

  14. @David
    The difference in viability between the Japan and Iceland is Japan runs a Scientific program and the meat is sold to recoup costs, there is of course debate saying the program is commercial fishing in disguise. Iceland’s commercial fishing fleet is not subsidised by their government which has been lobbying to end subsidies to all fishing fleets in Europe.

    Iceland stopped whaling due to lack of demand and started again to sell to the Japanese market, they are looking at 40-50 whales per year, as a little digression whilst looking for this information I found an Icelandic government minister saying nine whale watching tourists generated more income than one whale carcass.

  15. So does that mean they can hunt whales outside the tourist season and get the best of both worlds?

  16. Why not? Surely it is the profit motive at work. 🙂

    Part of the earlier reading I did mentioned that Iceland has the best sustainability plan for their fisheries in Europe and was the reason for their reticence in joining the EU as its policy is worse that Iceland’s current policy.

  17. If I know “Paul Watson” which I do know him well — The AFP will not be able to pin anything on him and the act of seizing the footage is clearly the Rudd Government bowing to their Japanese Masters. Both Rudd and Garrett are puppets of Japan so be prepared for every Whale in our Oceans to be wiped out and our Whale watching Industry anhialated. Only then will everyone wake up and realise that Japan in particular and all Nations that practice Major Commercial Fishing are destroying our Oceans. Yes — Systematic destruction of our Oceans leaving underwater deserts devoid of Life . I ask the Question seriously to every person on the Planet — “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT”

  18. Eric,

    I understand that Iceland issued quotas of 150 fin whales and 100+ minke whales a year. This is a 6 fold increase in quota, in accordance with their scientific advice and roughly in line with what Iceland’s whaling operators were hoping for. It’s certainly true that there is limited demand in Iceland. Only 300,000 people.

    But there’s 126 million in Japan, and tuna is in tighter supply apparently.. I wonder what sort of whale carcass the Icelandic government minister you mention was talking about. There’s much more meat on a fin whale than there is on a minke whale. In any case, Iceland will be smart if it optimises it’s use of the whales around it’s shores. I suspect this means permitting both whaling and whale watching operations. The logistics of this simply involve having the whale watchers and whaling operators staying out of each others way. I don’t believe that every whale watcher is a fanatic who would boycott the experience just because whalers are operating in the same country – I for one wouldn’t.


    There’s no need to be prepared for “every whale” in the ocean to be wiped out, or your whale watching industry being destroyed. Modern day whaling is, due to political realities, only conducted on a limited conservative basis which makes other fisheries look like open-slather by comparison. Japan has been hunting whales for more than 25 years since the “moratorium” was first agreed, and yet you should note that Antarctic minke whales are still regarded as the most abundant species, while others such as the Humpback are recovering (recently downlisted by the IUCN).

    Whalers also don’t catch whales in Australia’s EEZ, plus Japan seems willing to forgoe it’s desire to target Humpbacks so Australia’s whale watching industry is completely uneffected (although I imagine that even if Japan were hunting 50 humpbacks a year it’d make no difference considering the way the Humpback stocks that migrate up the coasts of Australia are booming at rates of 10% increase per annum).

  19. Another interesting thing is that supply of whale products to Japan’s market appears to have dropped in 2008 by around 1,500 tons versus 2006. 2006 marked a peak in supply, in the post-moratorium period. The decrease is no doubt due to interference by Sea Shepherd last year (should be a similar story this year too).

    Some rough sums indicate that Iceland’s new quotas will probably produce at least 1,000 tons of product, so in that respect the Icelanders are perhaps lucky that they are entering a market that has just suffered a supply shock of sorts.

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