Planet Earth

Ahead of Critical Meeting on Whaling, Japan Accused of Buying Votes

80beatsBy Andrew MosemanJun 15, 2010 3:46 PM
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And now, a sordid story about whaling. This weekend, The Sunday Times of London published an expose charging the Japanese government with using foreign aid, cash, and even call girls to bribe nations on the International Whaling Commission into voting Japan's way and supporting the country's whaling.

Japan denies buying the votes of IWC members. However, The Sunday Times filmed officials from pro-whaling governments admitting: - They voted with the whalers because of the large amounts of aid from Japan. One said he was not sure if his country had any whales in its territorial waters. Others are landlocked. - They receive cash payments in envelopes at IWC meetings from Japanese officials who pay their travel and hotel bills. - One disclosed that call girls were offered when fisheries ministers and civil servants visited Japan for meetings [The Times].

The full story is full of slimy details, like the allegation that Japan paid for Guinea's IWC membership and that the latter country's minister demanded a car and spending money, or the Tanzanian minister's assertion that prostitutes would be made available in exchange for support. But most importantly, the story comes out with a crucial IWC meeting on the horizon. The annual get-together is in Morocco this month, where the nations will debate a possible end to the moratorium that dates back to 1986. As we've noted before in a slew of stories about Japan's controversial whaling, the nation is allowed to harvest some whales—just less than 1,000 per year—in the name of scientific research. But if the new measure passes in Morocco, that changes. The moratorium would be lifted in exchange for whaling nations promising to reduce their catch totals over 10 years. Japan has renewed its occasional threat to withdraw from the IWC if the ban stays in place. Meanwhile, the bad press continues for the Japanese whaling. The Guardian has the story of a whistle-blower who formerly worked on a whaling ship and goes by the anonymous pseudonym "Kujira-san" (Mr Whale).

Kujira, who worked aboard the Nisshin Maru mother ship, saw crew members helping themselves to prime cuts of whale meat and packing them into boxes they would mark with doodles or pseudonyms so they could identify them when the vessel reached port. "They never wrote their real names on the boxes," he said.

Some whalers would take home between five and 10 boxes, he said, while one secured as many as 40 boxes of prime meat that fetches ¥20,000 (about £148) a kilo when sold legally. One crew member built a house with the profits from illicitly sold whale meat, he said. "Another used the money he earned to buy a car," he said. "They were careful to select only the best cuts, like the meat near the tail fin. I never dared challenge them" [The Guardian].

Related Content: 80beats: Will Commercial Whale Hunts Soon Be Authorized?

80beats: Videos Show Collision Between Japanese Whaling Ship & Protesters

80beats: Is the Whaling Ban Really the Best Way to Save the Whales?

80beats: Controversial Deal Could Allow Japan To Hunt More Whales

Image: Flickr/ Rene Ehrhardt

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