Monday, August 15, 2011

Japanese advocate calls for halt to whale hunt

Sydney Morning Herald
Andrew Darby
August 13, 2011

THE future of Japan's lethal whale research is in question, with internal criticism of its controversial Antarctic hunt fuelled by doubts the whalers can evade conservationist pursuit.

A senior member of a government review panel set up to advise options after last summer's disastrous season has raised the stakes by openly calling for a halt. Respected Japanese consumer advocate Hisa Anan rejected any scientific need to kill whales.

''Research whaling has been conducted for more than 20 years now,'' Ms Anan told the ABC through an interpreter in Tokyo. ''think they've gathered enough scientific data and even if they want more, they can conduct non-lethal research.''

The committee's majority want to continue with the hunt, according to Japanese media reports, but like Ms Anan they are worried about the threat posed by Sea Shepherd.

The mass circulation daily newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, said the majority found: ''Research whaling is justified on the basis of an international treaty. It should be continued without yielding to heinous interference.''

Last summer the whaling fleet was forced out of the Southern Ocean after its hunt was restricted by Sea Shepherd harassment.

The Institute of Cetacean Research said its crews were exhausted by the pursuit, which left them with a catch of 172 whales out of a potential 985.An unnamed Fisheries Agency official said that the prospects of returning were ''extremely gloomy,'' although the government has since stressed that its official policy is unchanged.

Extra pressure is coming from financial losses. The leading business newspaper, Nikkei, said: ''Japanese scientific whaling costs over 3 billion yen ($A35 million) every time, and its deficit is becoming a serious problem.''

Long-term observers of Japanese whaling were unconvinced the powerful agency would be overruled.

''I'm going to give them every chance to reconsider,'' said Mick McIntyre of the group Whales Alive. ''But I'm under no illusions that it's decided.''

Sea Shepherd's leader Paul Watson told the Herald all three of the group's ships would be positioned in Sydney and Fremantle in October.

''We are also looking for a fourth ship," he said. "If they return we will be ready to engage them again.''

Last season, the fleet operated south-east of New Zealand, but if it was to return next summer, it would be the turn of waters south of Australia, meaning closer involvement by the federal government in search and rescue, or monitoring of the fleets.

Read more:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Media release 11th July 2011 from the IWC meeting in Jersey, UK

Can the International Whaling Commission (IWC) stamp out corruption and vote buying?
A new proposal is being tabled at this year’s 63rd annual IWC meeting being held in Jersey, Channel Islands, that calls for the IWC to be transparent and more accountable.
The Annual Commission Meeting will run for four days from today, Monday 11 July to Thursday 14 July.

“Its time to stop the corrupt practice of Japan buying votes to support its barbaric practice of whaling. Some African and Caribbean countries have had their votes bought by Japan in exchange for cash. It is an iniquitous practice that must stop now so that we can guarantee a safe future for whales,” says Mick McIntyre, Director of the Australian conservation group Whales Alive, who has been attending IWC meeting since 1993

The UK is putting forward a resolution that calls on the IWC to put in place reforms that would bring the commission’s practices into the 21st century

“There is no other major convention in the world that accepts cash payments for member country payments - The IWC needs to step into the 21st century and be transparent,” McIntyre said.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) still has a major role to play in protecting whales and this UK proposal is crucial to stop whaling
The 89 country IWC is currently evenly split between pro and anti whaling countries. Japan, Norway and Iceland are the nations practicing whaling, and it is Japan using cash to recruit member countries to vote for their pro whaling stand.
At last years IWC meeting Whales Alive and other NGO’s succeeded in stopping countries overturning the worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling. When a compromise proposal put forward by USA and NZ was defeated.
“At this meeting we have a real chance of putting this convention back on course” said McIntyre

Mick is attending the meeting and is available for interviews. Contact Michael Young, +61 410 408 492

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Byron Bay Whales Alive Training Weekend Is A Success!

Last weekend Whales Alive conducted a weekend long training program for whale and dolphin watching operators and guides. We were even featured in the local Byron newspaper, The Echo.

The following is a press release from the event and the group picture of our awesome participants.

Cape Byron Whale Watching Training Workshop

Spectators at The Pass last Friday had the opportunity to view the first humpback whale for the season as BOB, the inflatable training aid belonging to research organisation Whales Alive, demonstrated approach distance regulations for whale watching tour operators.

A specialised training workshop including classroom and on-water sessions was conducted by Whales Alive and Cape Byron Marine Park (CBMP) on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th of May, for whale and dolphin watching operators and guides representing the five local dive, kayak and charter companies.

The training was delivered by Olive Andrews, Program Director of Whales Alive, who has 12 years experience delivering similar training workshops for governments and industry in Australia and throughout the Pacific and Caribbean Islands, and Dr Liz Hawkins, Leader of Southern Cross University’s Dolphin Ecology and Acoustics Project, which underpins the management and conservation of dolphins in the CBMP.

“As the 2011 whale season approaches, Whales Alive and Cape Byron Marine Park are working together to maximise public education about the natural history of whales and dolphins and minimise any potential impacts on the animals from tourism activities in The Bay” Ms Andrews said.

Cape Byron Marine Park Manager Andrew Page said “The workshop was run to encourage compliance in light of the growth of the marine mammal tourism industry on the North Coast, but also in response to requests from tourism operators for information about responsible whale watching”.

“We commend the local operators for showing leadership in the regulation of their own industry and advancing their knowledge of marine mammals. Byron is one of the better examples in the industry of whale watching operators working in collaboration with scientists and government agencies” said Ms Andrews.

“In other parts of Australia, tourism activities have been linked to decreased reproductive success of the animals so it’s important we comply with whale and dolphin watching regulations, which are designed to allow the animals space to conduct behaviours critical to their survival like feeding, breeding and resting” said Dr Hawkins.

Whales Alive will be partnering with Marine Parks again in June to offer a free public presentation about the biology and conservation of marine mammals to the Byron Bay public. There will also be a benefit concert ‘Whalesong’ involving leading Australian blues artists to support Whales Alive’s research programs at the Great Northern Hotel on Friday 24th June. Stay tuned to The Echo for details.

Friday, January 21, 2011


(from Sydney Morning Herald)"

January 22, 2011

The future of Japan's Antarctic industry hangs in the balance,
writes Andrew Darby.

IN THE shadows of intent, somewhere between harmless fireworks and deadly force, lies the whaling conflict in the Antarctic.
At one end of this spectrum are the stink bombs thrown against water jets. At the other is the near fatal collision involving the Ady Gil. Among all this piratical colour and movement, decisive moments of a decades-long struggle can pass little noticed.

Such was the case last week when a bizarre fleet manoeuvre formed in the Southern Ocean.
Three black ships of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society took up positions around a red fuel tanker and escorted it out of the Antarctic. Skulking in their wakes were two of the three harpoon-equipped whale hunter ships in the Japanese fleet.
The hunter ships had been tagging the black ships for two weeks, instead of harpooning whales.

Sea Shepherd's Neptune's Navy had tracked them down on New Year's Eve, only hours after they reached their whaling grounds.
The factory ship Nisshin Maru, together with the third harpoon boat, gave the activists the slip. But the two hunters were ordered to keep tabs on Sea Shepherd, presumably to inform the Nisshin Maru so it could keep clear. Now that the Sea Shepherd ships had locked on to the tanker Sun Laurel, the conservationists claimed to have found the fleet's Achilles heel. If Nisshin Maru could not refuel, Japan's whalers would have to cut their season short.

Neptune's Navy came one step closer to ruling the waves. It was further evidence that, after spending 23 years killing about 10,000 Antarctic minkes in the name of science, Japan's whalers are increasingly embattled.
They have seen the collapse of International Whaling Commission talks that might have given them a legitimate Antarctic kill, and taken a series of hits at home.

They had to share official blame for the Ady Gil shipwreck and were forced to apologise for running a whale-meat black market. In the legal trade the Japanese consumer appetite for their product is at best lukewarm.
Falling meat sales are stretching the finances of Japan's whaling agency, the Institute of Cetacean Research. And in the same way that tax laws finally caught up with the US gangster Al Capone, marine regulations are encircling Nisshin Maru, the world's last factory whaling ship.
The hopes of long-time opponents, such as Patrick Ramage, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, are rising. ''What I sense now is that the whaling industry is in its death throes,'' Ramage says.
The global politics of whaling shifted at a crucial International Whaling Commission meeting in Morocco in June, when the dispute between pro- and anti-whaling governments came to a head.
Of all the issues dividing the 88-member Whaling Commission, none is more sensitive than Japan's Antarctic whaling. A scheme to resolve this split emerged before the Morocco meeting, after three years of secretive wrangling between central commission countries, including Australia.

Its chairman, Cristian Maquieira, of Chile, offered a proposal to reduce Japan's quotas for five years from its present maximum of 935 minke whales to 400, and from 50 fin whales to 10; both these numbers were to halve again for the following five years.
To some anti-whaling governments, including the US, it was a potential face-saver for Japan to phase out Antarctic whaling. New Zealand's representative on the Whaling Commission, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, memorably said everyone would have to ''swallow the dead rat'' of compromise.

But the best Australia would offer Tokyo was a phase-out of whaling within five years. A US diplomatic cable revealed a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official complaining that greater compromise efforts ''bounced off'' the then environment minister, Peter Garrett.
Japan gave no indication it would be prepared to reduce numbers to an acceptable level, and the talks stalled.
Key negotiators have since left the Whaling Commission, including Palmer. (He now has what some might think an easier job - chairing a United Nations inquiry into the Gaza protest flotilla killings by Israeli soldiers last year.)
The main diplomatic game is shifting to Australia's International Court of Justice case against Japan. Advocates see strong opportunities to expose Japanese whaling before a new global audience in May, when Australia's full case, or ''memorial'', is outlined to the court.

''This case presents a real chance to expose Japan's whaling once and for all as a sham and an abuse of its rights at the IWC,'' says Mick McIntyre, from the group Whales Alive.

The WikiLeaks disclosure of US diplomatic cables revealed Australian cabinet division over the wisdom of this case, which will take years. But it undeniably demonstrates that the whaling issue is shifting from an incapable Whaling Commission and into the hands of other umpires.

The most thorough inquiry into the Ady Gil collision was conducted by Maritime New Zealand, acting as investigator for the wrecked ship's flag state. It recorded black marks against both sides.
It found the Japanese security ship Shonan Maru No. 2 had a responsibility to keep clear of the Ady Gil and had ample opportunity to do so. It also found the Ady Gil's skipper, Pete Bethune, failed to keep his vessel clear. His helmsman had limited visibility and did not see the Japanese boat until seconds before the impact.
This season Shonan Maru No. 2 was left out of the fleet. Bethune split acrimoniously from Sea Shepherd over its refusal to take him south again.

The Fisheries Agency of Japan also took an official hit over its officials' role in a fraudulent whale-meat trade exposed by Greenpeace. Recently the agency made a formal public apology for the loss of thousands of dollars' worth of meat, and censured five staff.

In Japan, where official corruption is consistently big news, damage to the whaling industry's image is significant, says Junichi Sato, of Greenpeace. ''Whaling was considered untouchable in the past,'' Sato said. ''Now this is just another corrupted operation.''
Sato was prosecuted with another man for shining a light on this trade by taking a box of whale meat and giving it to the authorities. They are appealing against their convictions.
He continues to watch the industry, despite the difficulty of making an impact on the government. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan is preoccupied with its own survival, and the Fisheries Agency still calls the shots. Asked whether Greenpeace could gain any engagement with the Democratic Party, Sato points to the fast-changing ministerial chairs and says: ''No. Not at all. It's horrible.''

However, he believes the Institute of Cetacean Research is in difficult financial straits. Two years ago, the Japanese fleet was seven ships strong. This year it has four. The whalers were also three weeks late reaching the Antarctic, and plan a much shorter season.

''I don't think they can afford to pay for a longer period,'' Sato said. ''They have a subsidy of about 800 million yen [$9.7 million] but they are missing revenue on whale-meat sales.''
Whale meat's popularity in Japan is hotly disputed. Its fans in a sprinkling of restaurants defend it; opponents believe it is increasingly seen as a throwback.
David Stevenson, a pro-whaling blogger who tracks the whale-meat trade from published Japanese data, found incoming stock more or less matched the outgoing for much of the past decade.
But consumption fell sharply in 2009. There are indications from Japanese environmentalists that consumption also fell last year. Stevenson argues this is a result of the global financial crisis. Others say more Japanese are rejecting it.
In any case, due to Sea Shepherd's obstruction, there is less whale meat reaching the docks and, as a result, less revenue to offset the institute's costs. Last year the activists cost the whalers 31 days of their season - almost a third - though they managed to catch 506 minkes and one fin whale. This year a much worse figure threatens.

On top of this short-term financial squeeze looms a greater strategic problem. The heavy fuel oil used by Nisshin Maru will be outlawed in the Antarctic by the International Maritime Organisation from August. The institute has given no indication of its intentions but Japan is one of the world's leading maritime nations and is regarded as highly compliant.
The 23-year-old Nisshin Maru may need a multimillion-dollar refit, or a government decision could be forced on whether to replace it. This is a nightmare scenario for whaling's opponents, who see a new ship as entrenching the industry for decades.
Without it, some believe whaling may quietly die, particularly if the fires of its supporters are not stoked by Sea Shepherd's direct action.

The Institute of Cetacean Research describes Sea Shepherd as ''terroristic''. But in technique its leader, Paul Watson, has more in common with Julius Caesar than al-Qaeda. Leading from the front, he besieges whaling. He believes the best way to end the hunt is to strangle its resources, and the rope appears to be tightening.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fakaalofa atu all,
Niue Whale Research Project team have just returned from a challenging field season in Niue which was a series of extreme highs and lows for our little team. Fiafia, Vanessa, Cara and Ben were tirelessly stalwart and managed to keep their leader in good humour throughout the setbacks. THANK YOU GUYS!

Quiet whales:
In addition to working from many different boats, the whales were very few, and the conditions averaging 20knots and over with 2m swell. The humpbacks that did come through were very skittish and 2 out of 3 were rounding out instead of fluking! We were only able to complete half of the line transect survey but I think it’s miraculous that we did achieve 130 miles of track lines in the conditions and with half the boat hours.
Whale stats: In total, over 6 weeks, we saw 45 humpbacks including vessel and land observations. Of these there were 3 cow/calf pods. We got 18 individual fluke ID’s, 3 sloughed skin samples, and 21 song recordings notably with a distinct song change brought by one individual we called Mr Curly.

We documented a new cetacean species for Niue when we had a very interesting encounter with 2 Sei whales 12 miles off shore near a sea mount. Photos attached. We also recorded the first sighting of a live sperm whale in Niue (only sighting was a standing event many years ago).

Public Education:
The team did multiple presentations on marine mammal biology and natural history to both the primary and high schools and got senior biology students on the water with the researchers. We also did weekly public presentations to locals and yachties at different venues. The highlight of this season was the Oma Tafua` (treasured whales) show case. Attended by 200 people and raising $1500, the night was opened by a breaching humpback in the sunset in front of the venue, Matavai Resort. Dozens of traditional dance and music groups from all around the island performed stories and songs about whales and the team presented the Fisheries Minister Pokotoa with the SPWRC award for leadership in marine mammal protection from Ocean Voices. The whole event was televised nationally multiple times.

We did weekly interviews with BCN broadcast on national news and introduced 2 whale films, What to do About Whales and The Humpback Code

Thank you Volunteers and sponsors
SO despite the setbacks the project was very successful in achieving most of its aims and we look forward to going back to ‘The Rock’ of Polynesia in 2011.

Koe kia and Monuina
<;))>< <;))>< <;))><
Olive Andrews
Program Director, Whales Alive
Project Leader, Niue Whale Research
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
P: +64 226879050

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The IWC fails to protect Humpbacks

June 25th

On the last day of its annual meeting the IWC has granted Greenland an annual quota of 9 Humpback whales for the next five years.

“We have failed the Humpbacks,” said Mick McIntyre reporting from the meeting in Agadir, Morocco. “This should never have been allowed to happen,” he said

“Humpback whales are an iconic species and we needed to do more to protect them,” he said

Greenland has an existing Aboriginal whaling quota of Fin whales, Bowhead whales and Minke whales and had requested to add Humpbacks to their annual hunt.

This request has been widely criticised as various reports have shown it does not meet the requirements set out by the IWC for Aboriginal subsistence hunting,

A recent NGO report outlined the commerciality of the hunt by tracking the whale meat through supermarkets in Greenland.

Under IWC rules whale meat caught under Aboriginal Subsistence quota can only be for local consumption

“It’s become clear this is a commercial hunt,” said McIntyre, After all their great work earlier in the meeting to defeat the chair’s compromise whaling package, the IWC needed to do more to save these Humpbacks.” He said

‘This sets a terrible precedent for the IWC’ he said

This is the first time since the commercial moratorium that the IWC has authorised the killing of Humpback whales.

The meeting concludes today,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

International Whaling Commission (IWC)

IWC 62,

DAY 3 (JUNE 23, 2010)

Greetings from Agadir, Morocco,

The Whaling deal is dead

· The moratorium on commercial whaling remains in place today as the member countries of the IWC rejected a compromise whaling proposal.

· Two years of secret discussions followed by another day and a half of secret Commissioners’ negotiations in Agadir ended with the proposal not getting enough support.

This is a great victory for the whales

Had this compromise agreement been approved by the IWC, not only would the moratorium be lifted, but the abusive activities of Japan, Norway and Iceland would have received the stamp of approval from the IWC.

(Of course it is a hollow victory because as we speak the Japanese are in the North pacific killing the largest brained creature on the planet (Sperm whales) and in November will steam down to the Antarctic to take endangered Fin whales and Minke whales, but today’s victory was essential)

· In conclusion the chair indicated that The Future of the IWC agenda item will be kept open,

· This was to allow countries to decide what’s next regarding the “Future of the IWC”

· Minister Garrett and the entire OZ delegation deserve special recognition for their efforts to block this mad proposal,

· In addition the Latin block, Brazil, Chile, Argentina etc. were fabulous also.

· Obviously NZ and the USA have some major explaining to do about their promotion of this whaling proposal.

Other Agenda Items

· Whale Populations

Surprise, surprise the Scientific Committee still does NOT have an agreed abundance estimate for Antarctic minke whales.

(Which completely makes a mockery of Japan’s lethal research in the Antarctic)

There are two estimates that are currently miles apart

BUT both estimates show incredible decline in the Southern Minke population, (a HUGE concern)

A real worry is that there is talk about averaging out the two conflicting estimates if they can’t reconcile???????

· Safety at Sea

The Japanese wheeled out a PowerPoint on the “violent” attacks from Sea Shepherd

Interestingly they showed the video of the sinking of the Ady Gill, despite the incident still being investigated by the NZ and OZ governments.

Also Sir Geoffrey Palmer noted in his intervention that he was not comfortable talking about the Ady Gill incident as he did not want to unduly influence the ongoing trial of the New Zealand citizen Peter Bethune, who he said was sitting in a Japanese jail still waiting to go to trial.

The Japanese also applied pressure on the Netherlands (where the Sea Shepherd boats are registered)

The Netherlands responded by saying that they were overhauling their laws on ship registration,

It will be interesting to see whether this affects Sea Shepherds ability to register to the Netherlands.

· Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP)

Minister Garrett and the OZ delegation hosted reception at the end of the day’s meetings to highlight the research from the first SORP Antarctic cruise.

Very Important to recognize Australia’s huge investment in non-lethal research.

· Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling

Unfortunately Greenland’s request for Humpbacks is still on the table

And today they put forward their latest proposal.

As NGO reports have repeatedly shown the Greenland hunt has many commercial elements to it and therefore this latest request for Humpbacks must be rejected.

· The work continues

So at the end of Day 3 we can reflect on the good work that went into defeating the whaling package

We also know that the work continues tomorrow,

Making sure that the IWC continues to move forward as a conservation Convention

BUT also recognize that the IWC still remains unable to stop Japan using article 8 to conduct “so called” scientific whaling !!!

More on that tomorrow,

Its late,

I’m off to bed,

Thanks for all the messages of support

Whales Alive Forever



Mick McIntyre
Director, Whales Alive
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