Thursday, October 16, 2008


I found this banner on top of an interesting article, "Let them eat Whales! " published in Japan Times yesterday.

[If you want to read it, download it quickly, because Japan Times articles usually never stay online for very long]

How to do deals with Japanese executives...I was amused by this banner advertising the services of Jumpstart, because I just spent a large portion of the last week and a half trying to make a "whale conservation deal" with Japanese Government officials at the World Conservation Congress. We eventually got a deal with Japan, and Norway, but two or three governments blew it because they weren't convinced that it was a good deal.

Of course the deal was not going to stop whaling overnight, that wasn't the idea. But it was meant to be what diplomats call a confidence-building step. I'm sure that could have helped the on-going discussions taking place on the Future of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The deal meant Japan and Norway no longer supporting the assertion that controlling [read: culling] great whale populations can increase fisheries yields [in a bid to gain support at the IWC Japan has campaigned for nearly two decades to scare off many countries, suggesting that if their fish resources are in jeopardy it is because huge schools of hungry whales are swallowing them all].

As part of the deal also, Japan had agreed to "encourag[e] the use of non-lethal research methods by members engaged in studies on the biology and behaviour of whales, including their feeding habits". Something I found interesting given that Japan's "scientific whaling" programme is a highly subsidized operation. I think we can argue that it's hard to "encourage" non-lethal research with one hand, and to subsidize lethal research with the other, can't we?

I've received many calls and emails from colleagues inquiring about my views and feelings on this consensus broken at the last minute [last second, even]. Of course I was disappointed because I think that reaching consensus on a whaling issue for the first time could have been a watershed that could have marked the future of negotiations on whale conservation. But if I step back a little, it is also clear that -- even if we did not get what I was hoping for a few hours before the vote -- we got much more than I was hoping for only two weeks earlier.

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