Greenpeace activists were demonstrating ouside The Japenese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo yesterday, where members of a dozen African and Pacific nations met to discuss whaling with Japanese bureaucrats. Representatives from Tanzania, Palau, Micronesia and Eritrea, all of which have received substantial 'fisheries aid' in recent years, were among Whaling Commission (IWC) and support Japan's latest bid to overturn the moritorium which currently bans commercial whaling.
The event, provocatively entitled 'The Sustainable Use of Whales', came just days before a meeting in London designed to discuss the future of the IWC and break the deadlock between pro-whaling and pro-conservation countries. Once again it demonstrates the clear link between 'fisheries aid' and support for whaling - a policy which Japan has been following since 1994. The London meeting will be an 'inter- sessional' designed to sort out an agenda for the full IWC meeting, which takes place in Chile in June.
So despite the inroads our anti-whaling campaign is making in Japan, where recent polls show 69 per cent of the public do not support whaling in the Southern Ocean, the bureaucrats in charge of Japanese fishing policies are still sending out clear signals that they plan to continue whaling there as long as they can. Perhaps more alarmingly for the taxpayers of Japan, their Government are spending millions of Yen to try and buy political and public support for commercial whaling.
And in another example of how the whalers buy-in support, St Andrews University was revealed to have accepted funds for whale research from the Institute of Cetacean Research, the Japanese agency which directs the country's annual whale hunt. Researchers at St Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland, received £31,900 in 2002 and £5,000 in 2005 from the ICR, which paid for it using the income from whale-meat sales. It's worth remembering that the raison d'etre of the ‘scientific' research programme in the Southern Ocean, including spotting whales and killing them, is solely to justify a return to full-scale commercial whaling.
Professor Alan Miller, vice-principal for research, defended the university's position, saying that "we have a strong track record of producing research which consistently undermines the case for whaling." Nevertheless, for an institution with an avowed "commitment to conservation", taking money from the ICR and thereby helping to legitimise its activities must be seen as a serious blunder. The university is now said to be reviewing its position; it's trying to disassociate itself from being seen as supporting whaling, and has hinted that it won't accept any future funding of this sort.
Which is good news. It's just a shame that they have to be exposed in public in this way before they agree to do the right thing.