In a move that is sure to enrage environmentalists, the whale meat loving Japanese have found a new way to enjoy the delicacy. Iceland is now shipping the controversial product to Japan using Norway as the middleman.
Greenpeace Japan has reported that a Norwegian ship docked at a port in Osaka carrying a cargo of fin whales a few days ago. Junichi Sato of Greenpeace Japan, said the ship was reported to be carrying 2,000 tons of whale meat, destined for Japanese tables.
Sato said, “The ship, named Alma, arrived on May 7 and we were informed in advance that it would carry whale meat to be unloaded at Osaka port.” While the environmental activists remain indignant over the hunting of whales in defiance of whale hunting bans, what astonished the group even more is the sheer size of the cargo.
“We don’t know why Japan had to import such huge volume of whale meat,” Sato said. The size of the cargo is equal to two-thirds of Japan's annual consumption of the meat. Sato reiterated his group "oppose such shipments."
The shipment is sure to cause additional concerns for another reason. Iceland and Norway have also been criticized for continued hunting of whales despite an international moratorium on whaling. Japan is whaling for "scientific research," to get around the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling.
Even though Japan complied with the latest March ruling by the ICJ, and stopped whaling in the Antarctic Ocean, they left several ships in the area to do "non-lethal" research. The country has come under additional criticism for conducting whaling in the Pacific, which is not covered under the ICJ ruling.
The massive size of the cargo of whale meat and blubber has many people wondering at the reasons behind the shipment. Some people suspect that even though the demand for whale meat has decreased in recent years, the government of Japan is continuing the whale hunts to protect its vested interests in the whaling industry.
In 2009, Japan began importing whale meat from Iceland and Norway for the first time in over a decade. This was despite the international trade of whale meat being prohibited by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Japan, Norway and Iceland had registered reservations with the treaty, and considered themselves exempt from abiding by the ruling.
In January of this year, it was learned that Norway was playing a key role in Iceland's shipments of whale meat to Japan in defiance of international agreements. Iceland has been shipping thousands of tons of whale products to Japan after resuming commercial whaling in 2006.
It was learned through documents obtained by the Washington DC-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), that Iceland first ships the whale products to Norway, and the whale meat is then re-exported to Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd., a company right in the middle of Japan's controversial "scientific whaling" program.
In December of 2013, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha announced they would begin importing Norwegian whale meat in 2014, saying they needed to import and sell whale products "in order to help subsidize future Japanese scientific whaling efforts." Interestingly, that very same month, Lofothval, a whaling firm in Norway's Lofoten Islands, received two permits from Norway's Environment Agency to export whale products to Japan.
Documents show that one shipment of 5,000 kg. is identified as being whale meat only from Lofothval, and another shipment is identified as being a "re-export" of 5,000 kg of Icelandic minke whale meat and blubber. Myklebust Trading AS, another Norwegian company, has asked for a permit to ship up to 34,381 kg of minke whale to Toshi International, a company in Japan. If granted, the shipment would be the second shipment in the past year.
As of March of this year, records show that Japan had been killing approximately 1,000 whales per year, consisting mainly of minke whales. This is in addition to all the whale products being imported into the country. But based on the export information out of Iceland and Norway, the international community needs to be concerned with all three countries whaling practices.