Japanese officials arrive at the IWC meeting in Morocco. AP photo, 2010.

Dec. 1, 2010 JAPAN – High-ranking officials from 27 nations are gathered today in Shimonoseki, Japan, a traditional whaling hub, with the aim of lifting a decades-old ban on commercial whale hunts.

The 2-day meeting takes place amidst reports earlier this year of Japanese officials luring pro-whaling IWC participants with prostitutes and paying flight and hotels expenses for attendance. Further tarnishing Japan as the backdrop for this international meeting are the bribes to nations that have no stake in whaling to join the International Whaling Commission (IWC) as pro-whaling votes.

The gatherers for this sordid affair include officials from Japan, Norway, and Iceland and 24 other nations and regions. The list naming the countries in attendance is not readily available, and the conference has been shut to journalists. The Japanese government is telling journalists to not even speak to participants at the conference center or their hotels. However, verified attendees include officials from Europe, Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, the Caribbean, and the Danish region of Greenland.

Conservation groups estimate that 1.5 million whales were slaughtered in the 20th century and 35,000 whales have been harpooned to death since the whaling moratorium was imposed.  Enough already. – Global Animal

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M&C, by Takehiko Kambayashi

Tokyo – Undaunted by mounting international criticism of whale hunting, pro-whaling nations are to discuss their future strategy and direction at a closed-door conference in south-western Japan next week.

The 27 nations from Europe, the Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean as well as the Danish region of Greenland are to participate in the two-day conference on ‘sustainable use of cetaceans,’ starting Tuesday, in Shimonoseki, a whaling town itself.

Among the European nations represented are Norway and Iceland, who, like Japan, are some of the world’s most prolific whalers.

But the Japanese government, whose whaling activities have long been criticized by environmentalists and foreign media, shut the door to reporters except for a photo-op in the first 5 minutes of the first day.

The government even told journalists not to talk to participants at the conferencecentre or their hotels.

‘We understand that we cannot implement press restraints,’ Toshinori Uoya, a Japanese fisheries agency official, said. ‘We also understand that we are accountable to the public.’

‘But it is very hard to talk about the content of the conference since we are expected to discuss future strategy, future direction and positions that the participating countries are going to take’ on commercial whaling at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), he said.

Uoya said that the conference organizers were concerned that some undecided issue or individual comments would make big headlines before decisions are made.

This type of conference has been organized almost every year by the Institute of Cetacean Research, a Tokyo-based non-profit organization, but this time it is hosted by the Japanese government, Uoya said.

‘I would say this is a sort of ad hoc meeting. In the view of the current status, we would like to consider future direction as a nation after hearing other countries’ opinions,’ he said.

Wakao Hanaoka, an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace Japan, pointed out the policy contradiction as Japan also currently holds the presidency of the Convention of Biological Diversity.

Just a month ago, delegates from around the world came to Nagoya, and adopted an international protocol aimed at protecting biodiversity. And now the country is also holding a pro-whaling conference.

‘The problem of whaling is a very critical one as it symbolizes the issue of biodiversity protection,’ Hanaoka said. ‘The species’ numbers have dwindled for the last 100 years.’

At the annual IWC meeting in Morocco in June, member nations’ efforts toward the ‘normalization’ of commercial whaling ended in failure, Uoya said.

A compromise between pro- and anti-whaling camps was supposed to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland a small commercial hunt in exchange for their cutting the number of whales that they now kill. But a majority of the countries strongly opposed lifting the whaling ban.

The IWC meeting was also overshadowed by corruption allegations as Britain’s Sunday Times reported Japan used bribes to counter pressure on it to reduce whaling.

The commission’s deputy chairman Anthony Liverpool accepted free flights and had his hotel bill paid by the Japanese government, the paper said.

Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister as well as Liverpool, the country’s ambassador to the IWC, denied the allegations. So did Japan.

The next IWC meeting is to be held in Jersey, a British Crown Dependency, in the Channel Islands in July.

Japan halted commercial whaling in 1987, complying with an international moratorium which went into effect in 1986. But the nation has used a loophole in the agreement to continue whaling under the premise of conducting it for scientific research. Critics, however, accuse Japan of doing it for money.

Environmentalists say about 35,000 whales have been hunted down since the moratorium was imposed.

Some supporters argue whaling is part of Japanese culture, which must therefore be respected by foreigners.

But a majority of Japanese do not eat whale meat, leading to the accumulation of a huge stockpile. According to the latest government data available, as of the end of August, there were 5,790 tons of whale meat in stock, the largest amount in more than four years.

Moreover, many Japanese do not seem to grasp the international criticism because much of the domestic media coverage about whaling issues is devoted to anti-whaling groups’ protests against the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean. But the reports fail to provide background or broader perspectives on the issue.

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/asiapacific/features/article_1601404.php/Japan-coy-over-pro-whaling-strategy-conference-News-Feature

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