Currently, it takes some time to respond to comments because I have some other things I have to prioritize.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scrutinize an anti-whaling article (written in March, 2011)

Underlined parts will be discussed later. If you are in a hurry, please skip to the middle of this post.

                                                                                                                                                                   
*Excerpt from The Epoc Times - Japan Struggles to Keep Controversial Whaling Industry Alive*
   
Despite relentless battles with conservation groups, Japan’s whale hunt for research continues annually. Japan argues the research is to track whale populations in support of their bid to lift the ban on commercial whaling. However, there is dispute within the research community on the relevance of that research.

Last year, Japan caught and killed 507 whales for research, and the whale meat was then sold in Japan for consumption. Although there is a ban on commercial whaling, it is stipulated by the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that any whales caught for research should then be processed and sold.

Last week Japanese whaling ships left the Antarctic Ocean, cutting short this season’s research expedition. Hampered by conservation group Sea Shepherd, the Japanese fleet caught only 172 of their targeted 850 whales (plus or minus 10 percent). For the last seven years Sea Shepherd has used its fleet to physically block the whaling ships.

The international body governing whaling, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), allows whaling for scientific study. However the value of the research conducted by Japan’s government-led Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) is not subject to peer review. The International Whaling Commission does not require Japan to prove the value of its research.

The moratorium on commercial whaling was put in place by the IWC in 1982 because of a lack of scientific data on the precise status of whale stocks. Japan’s ICR says the purpose of its research is to “resolve the lack of scientific evidence concerning Antarctic minke whales.”
According ICR, their research on minke whales includes information “such as age at sexual maturity, age at physical maturity, growth curve, blubber thickness, and stomach content change over the years.”

After studying the genetics, biology, and body shape of minkes, ICR concluded there are two large stocks in the research area in the Antarctic, where there were originally believed to be six. ICR says it needs to therefore monitor changes in the Antarctic ecosystem to understand how the whales adapt to shifts in the ecosystem, “to provide scientific basis for comprehensive management of whale resources.”

However, some marine biologists doubt the connection between the lethal research ICR is carrying out, and its stated research goals.

Dr. Phillip Clapham, who heads the Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, says only a small portion of the ICR’s research is relevant to whale population management.

The ICR produces “a plethora of papers that concern topics of no relevance to [whale population] management, and which frequently focus on (to put it mildly) arcane topics. For example, serum biochemistry of minke whales may be academically interesting to some, but it has no application to assessing the status of whale populations,” wrote Clapham in an e-mail.

Clapham is also on the Scientific Committee of the IWC, as one of the commission’s 200 advisers who review the science and rules that govern whaling.

The controversy over scientific whaling has been a long struggle between pro- and anti-whaling member-nations of the commission.

In 2005, Japan proposed a new research plan arguing the need to expand their study of whales because the Antarctic’s ecosystem is undergoing change. Sixty-three scientists representing 16 of the 30 members of the IWC signed a paper contesting the claims in Japan’s research proposal.

Japan’s research whaling activities is the single most controversial issue within the IWC, often dividing the organization into two camps.
“The tragedy for the scientists involved in the debate on scientific whaling is that they are labeled as either pro- or anti-whalers. This impugns objectivity and relegates any discussion to polarized politics,” wrote Clapham and three co-authors Nicholas Gales, Toshio Kasuya, and Robert Brownell Jr. in the June 2005 edition of the journal Nature.

In 2007, the commission passed a resolution calling on the government of Japan to refrain from issuing a permit for scientific whaling.

Japan fears that if its research into whale populations stops, the ban on commercial whaling will never be lifted.


Despite the long history of eating whale in Japan, domestic demand for whale meat is low. Even so, according to Shigeki Takaya of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, last year Japan imported an additional 400 tons of whale meat from Iceland. That is in addition to the 3,500 to 4,500 tons of meat Japan has caught for research each year for the last five years. Japan also imported whale meat from Norway up until two years ago when Norway stopped exports.

Whale meat is commonly available in Japanese supermarkets and restaurants. The meat is sold smoked, canned, and frozen as well as raw for sashimi. At the low end, whale meat retails for approximately $25 per pound. Tuna, by comparison, sells for about $16 per pound on average, making whale not cheap, but certainly affordable for middle-class Japanese consumers.


There is evidence that ancient Japanese ate whale as far back as the Jomon period (7000–8000 to 3000 B.C.). Much later, in the 17th century, whale catching advanced with use of nets and at that point consumption of whale became widespread. In post-World War II Japan the scarcity of food led to an increase in consumption of whale, and it became a staple of the Japanese diet


Keeping the tradition of whale eating alive is not just controversial; it’s expensive. According to a Feb. 20 report by the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, Japan’s research whaling costs an estimated $72 million annually. The three harpoon ships, one factory ship, and other refrigerator and refueling ships have a combined crew of 180 people. The Japanese government provides a $10 million subsidy for the research. The rest of the cost is offset primarily through the sale of whale meat. With only 172 whales caught this year, and 507 last year, out of an annual target of 850, there is much less meat to sell to help recover costs.

Japanese officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries have studied potential scenarios for next season, according the Daily Yomiuri article. One option considered was to have Japan’s coast guard escort the fleet, but no coast guard ships can make the trip to the Antarctic. Building faster whaling vessels was also considered, but the cost is prohibitive. The other options considered are to get the IWC to reopen commercial whaling, to continue with the status quo, or to end whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.
*Excerpt ends*
                                                                                                                                                                    

Let’s begin with “Despite relentless battles with conservation groups, Japan’s whale hunt for research continues annually.”

“Battles” sound like there was an exchange of attacks between Japan’s research vessels and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The truth is that the research vessels have never attacked SSCS. All the  Japanese vessels have are methods for self-defense like water hose.
On the other hand, SSCS has used harmful bottles of liquid – harmful both to human being and the very environment the organization allegedly has been trying to protect.
SSCS has used other environmentally-unfriendly weapons like combustible rockets, which sinks into the sea when they miss the Japanese research vessels.
In conclusion, it is “one-sided violence” rather than “battles” between two groups.
  

“For the last seven years Sea Shepherd has used its fleet to physically block the whaling ships.”
 Is it something admirable? Why doesn’t he/she mention the obvious illegality of the series of conducts?
  

“However, there is dispute within the research community on the relevance of that research.”
“Japan’s government-led Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) is not subject to peer review. The International Whaling Commission does not require Japan to prove the value of its research. “
“Serum biochemistry of minke whales may be academically interesting to some, but it has no application to assessing the status of whale populations,” wrote Clapham in an e-mail.”

ICR’s research called JARPA was actually reviewed by IWC and proved its validity.
According to ICR, the most recent JARPA review by the IWC's Scientific Committee in December 2006 concluded as follows.
  
[The dataset provides a valuable resource to allow investigation of some aspects of the role of whales within the marine ecosystem and that this has the potential to make an important conntribution to the Scientific Committee's work in this regard as well as the work of other relevant bodies such as the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and,
the results from the research program have the potential to improve management of minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere.]


“ICR concluded there are two large stocks in the research area in the Antarctic, where there were originally believed to be six.”

The writer found a piece of information that can mislead readers, but he/she never says whether the number of minke whales is decreasing. Either because of the lack of data (proves the necessity of further research) or there’s a concrete fact that the number is actually increasing (moratorium on commercial whaling is no longer needed). The writer would gladly use if there’s rigid evidence in support of his/her statements.

Here's an additional piece of information. According to a statement made in 1992 by IWC, the number of minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean won’t decrease even if 2000 of them are captured annually. 


 “The controversy over scientific whaling has been a long struggle between pro- and anti-whaling member-nations of the commission.”

It is presumable that the question on the relevance of the research was provided by “a part” of “anti-whaling” members of IWC.
“Those who claim themselves to be “anti-whaling” who in fact indulge themselves in the status quo” might be truer.


“Japan fears that if its research into whale populations stops, the ban on commercial whaling will never be lifted.”

Japan does fear, yes, after the organization started losing its original goal to pursue sustainable whaling. Canada is one of the countries who left the organization after he witnessed the distortion of the original goal.
Although it might be easier to leave IWC to conduct commercial whaling, I insist that the Japanese government stay there for the original goal in order to pursue sustainable whaling which I think is equivalent to advocating the importance to respect different cultures.


“The Japanese government provides a $10 million subsidy for the research. The rest of the cost is offset primarily through the sale of whale meat. With only 172 whales caught this year, and 507 last year, out of an annual target of 850, there is much less meat to sell to help recover costs.”

It is obvious that the Japanese government is trying to “maintain its culture” of whaling despite the current deficit of it.
If it were for profit, the government would have stopped whaling long ago.
Why doesn’t he/she mention the necessity of compensation from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the USA and Australia? Those who violated international laws and those who support the outlaws.
Don’t you think the writer has a perspective very much in favor of anti-whalings? Or am I the only one feeling this way?
 

“One option considered was to have Japan’s coast guard escort the fleet, but no coast guard ships can make the trip to the Antarctic. Building faster whaling vessels was also considered, but the cost is prohibitive. The other options considered are to get the IWC to reopen commercial whaling, to continue with the status quo, or to end whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.”

The writer doesn’t talk about the possibility of Japan’s withdrawal from IWC. It’s the last option, but there’s the possibility.
Can any of you come up with a good reason why he/she didn’t mention it?
Let me guess, the present situation is the most lucrative situation for what is called “environmental activists,” and the choice of withdrawal would result in the least profitable situation for them.

The more I read this kind of articles, the more convinced I become that anti-whaling, or anti-Japan, is very much lucrative for certain people.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Giant Panda - symbol of China?

In 1972, Japan and China normalized their diplomatic relationship. As tokens of friendship, the Communist Party of China gifted two giant pandas to Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.
The incident triggered what is called “panda boom” here in Japan and it’s no exaggeration that the media frantically broadcasted every single day of them.



CPC has utilized the giant panda as a diplomatic method (called “panda diplomacy”) to enhance international relationship.
When the two pandas were accepted by Japan, China was experiencing the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which hideously damaged China’s international reputation.
The two pandas, at least partially, worked out to improve Japanese people’s impression toward China.

Another two pandas arrived at Ueno Zoo on February 21, 2011. What is assumable is that the Communist Party of China has sensed Japanese people's deteriorated impression of China, and the government tried another "Panda Diplomacy" on Japan.

This time the situation is a little different. Japan will pay about 900,000 dollars to China annually, and it's 10 years long contract between Japan and China rather than a gift from China.
In case a panda dies during the ten years contract, Japan must compensate for the loss with some 550,000 dollars. If the couple of giant panda happen to give birth to babies, Japan must hand them over to China.
I wonder if this contract is financially viable.


 
Nowadays, the giant panda is internationally acknowledged as a Chinese national treasure, and it’s recognized as a symbol of China.

However, there are some noteworthy facts about the giant panda in relation to Tibet.
Do you know where most giant pandas live?
Qinling Mountains in the Southern part of Shaanxi province.
Southern area of Gansu Province.
Min Mountains in the northern area of Sichuan Province.
The giant panda is said to predominantly live in the areas given above.

These areas are regarded as China’s territory or at least CPC claims so. However, when Tibet was still a sovereign country, the areas were just around the boarder between China and Tibet. Some people insist that most giant pandas live in Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture which used to be a part of Tibet until 1955.

Location of Ngawa
Habitat of the giant panda
The exact habitat of the giant panda is out of my jurisdiction, but there’s no doubting the fact that the giant panda used to be populated in Tibet too.
As you can see in the map bellow, Tibet was gradually invaded by China finally to be conquered in 1965. What is now called “Tibet Autonomous Region” is just one region of Tibet that fought to the end against China.
The sequence of the invasion of Tibet


Name of the region Annexation Population Tibetan proportion
1. Tenzhu Tibetan Autonomous County 1950 220,000    29.87%
2. Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture 1953 640,000    51.44%
3. Muli Tibetan Autonomous County 1955 130,000    32.39%
4. Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous           Prefecture 1955 850,000    53.72%
5. Qinghai Province 1955 5,090,000    20.90%
6. Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture 1957 880,000    78.37%
7. Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture 1957 350,000    33.12%
8. Tibet Autonomous Region 1965 2,670,000    93.00%

The above picture and the data from http://tibet.turigane.com/tibetpanda.html

Taking into account of the historical facts, the acknowledgement of the giant panda solely as a Chinese national treasure is equivalent to the justification of the China’s past and ongoing invasion of Tibet.
I can not and should not deny that the giant panda is a Chinese national treasure, but we must recognize the panda as a Tibetan national treasure at the same time. Otherwise, we will indirectly contribute to the justification of China’s invasion of Tibet.