Number 5, 28 June 1996
Coverage of the
International Whaling Commission's
1996 Annual Meeting
June 23-28, Aberdeen, Scotland
About ECO

 

Russians Suppress Soviet Whaling Scandal

The KGB, Russian mafia, and the Russian delegation to the International
Whaling Commission all have one thing in common: they all feel threatened
by the new publication, "Soviet Antarctic Whaling Data." Suppressed for
years by the Soviet government, and more recently by old-style Soviet
bureaucrats and corrupt officials, the famous Soviet whaling data is
finally officially out and available here at the IWC. Published by the
Russian Marine Mammal Council, and endorsed by the Russian Minister of
Environment, this shocking 300-page expos reveals, among many other facts,
that:

Falsified statistics of catches were systematically reported to the IWC Secretariat for decades. More than 90,000 kills went unreported, including tens of thousands of "protected" species: at least 46,000 humpbacks, 8,000 blues and 3,000 right whales.

"The extent of poaching was wide ... the secret Soviet whaling industry killed major populations of whales not only in the waters of New Zealand and the Antarctic, but also in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean, and in the southwest Atlantic."

Much of the poaching took place under the eyes of Japanese inspectors in the Antarctic waters.

IWC rules were not lived up to by a single Soviet flotilla.


The data revealed in this critically-important publication is so convincing
that Russia's Minister of Environment, in the Foreword, states that by
publishing this information "we will clean up yet another dirty spot in
Soviet history."

But the Russian delegation and other Soviet henchmen think differently. The
Fisheries Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been working
closely with the Japanese government to: (a) increase exports of marine
products to Japan; and (b) to grant more fishing concessions to Japanese
vessels. So what does any of this have to do with the new publication on
Soviet whaling data?

According to reliable sources in Moscow, ECO has learned that several
officials who worked in the Soviet Ministry of Fisheries during the dark
days of Soviet whale poaching are still in positions of power. The trail of
the data leads to their doorstep, and if one looked further, would reveal
that they benefitted from illegal trade of the poached meat to Japanese
companies for several decades.

Furthermore, as the authors of the publication point out, the new
revelations "force one to believe that the international community must
review practically all population statistics presented to the IWC about a
variety of whale species, including humpbacks, southern blue whales, fin
whales, sei whales, and Bryde's whales [as well as] the current
distribution of whale populations throughout the world."

Because the Russian Fisheries Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry stand
to gain financially from increased cooperation with Japan--and a lot to
lose from smoking guns pointing at those who struck and continue to strike
lucrative deals with Japan--they have struck back at the new publication
with venomous attacks. First, Alexander Matveev, from Russia's Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, who works closely with the Fisheries Ministry, stopped
just short of declaring nuclear war against all nations that supported the
release of some of the Soviet whale data at last year's IWC meeting in
Dublin. Then this year, the Federal Security Bureau (formerly known as the
KGB) launched an investigation into the researchers behind the publication.
It is suspected that this investigation was requested by the Fisheries
Ministry.


Whales Win, Makah Reflect

Facing mounting opposition and contending with an obviously divided Makah
contingent, the United States delegation yesterday dramatically withdrew
its premature push for a resumption of tribal whaling.

The US proposal, cloaked in terms of cultural revitalization, would have
exploded a hole in the IWC definition of Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling
large enough that a Japanese catcher boat could sail through. Gone would
have been the requirements for documentation of a true "nutritional" need
and a "continuous subsistence dependence" on whales.

This was no accident! The plan has been contrived over several years with
the direct encouragement of the Norwegian and Japanese governments and
whalers, oil, timber, fisheries and land use exploiters, and the complicity
of certain Makah Council members and staff. The Makah whaling scheme was,
for example, presented to the US government and the 1995 IWC Annual Meeting
long before the Makah Tribe was ever consulted. Makah Council members even
admitted they were considering hiring St. Vincent's Alternate Whaling
Commissioner to assist the Council with the commercial expansion of tribal
fisheries.

Undaunted by the full machinery of the US government, the Makahs in
Aberdeen who were representing their traditional Elders joined a united NGO
community and won a reprieve for wisdom.

The loss reflects poorly on the Clinton administration which, evidently,
was more than willing to sacrifice the whales and IWC protocol to serve
their "wise use" partners and to avoid a possible treaty lawsuit by the
Makah Council. Strangely, the US bureaucracy found it expedient to expend
tens of thousands of dollars on diplomatic contortions to get the Makah
five gray whales. Sincere Administration concern for the Makah would have
given consideration to critical municipal expenditures required for a new
reservation water treatment plant and sewage system needed to keep the
Makah and their children healthy.

Stay tuned, this ain't over. The US delegation promised to bring back the
Makah plan again next year. International NGOs, in turn, promise to reach
out to all of their new Makah friends and share with them our files on the
underhanded dealings of the Norwegian and Japanese interests and their many
unscrupulous operatives. See you in Monaco and Neah Bay!


Does Japan Own Baja California?

Does a secret 1908 treaty between Mexico and Japan cede control of the
vital gray whale lagoons of Baja California to the Japanese Government--and
effectively to Mitsubishi Corp., the giant Japanese conglomerate that is
rapidly devastating the lagoons?

Investigations by environmental groups are exposing the dirty diplomatic
secret behind the industrialization of San Ignacio and Guerrero Negro
Lagoons and Magdalena Bay in southern Baja California.

Mitsubishi Corp. has already converted a large portion of Guerrero Negro
region into the world's largest evaporation ponds. Now the Japanese
corporation is planning a 100-square-mile saltworks in the pristine San
Ignacio Lagoon, home of the famous "friendly" gray whales. And farther
south, a Mitsubishi real estate subsidiary, Iwasaki Corp., is developing
hundreds of square miles around Magdalena Bay into a major resort, golf and
yachting center.

Imperial Power Struggle
The extraordinary story of Japan's takeover of hundreds of miles of Baja
coastline began in the decade before World War I, when imperial powers were
jockeying for colonies, resources and strategic advantage. The Japanese
military, fresh from its crushing defeat of Russia in 1904-1905 and seeking
to spread its reach across the Pacific, sought a naval base in Mexico in
order to counter the growing U.S. presence in the Americas. The U.S. had
acquired the land for the Panama Canal in 1906 with the express purpose of
moving its naval fleets easily into the Pacific.

In 1908, reports reached Washington from Central America that Japan had
entered into a secret treaty with Mexico for a long-term lease of a naval
base at Magdalena Bay. As the winds of war swept the world in the coming
years, the Japanese presence in Mexican affairs grew.

The noted historian Barbara Tuchman recounts the Japan-Mexico Connection in
her remarkable history of the pre-World War I period, The Zimmerman
Telegram:

"Japanese training ships visited Mexican waters. In 1911 came Admiral
Yashiro, Grand Admiral of the Japanese fleet, on a state visit. Entertained
by the Mexican Minister of War at a splendid banquet at Chapultepec, the
Admiral rose, rather unsteadily after seven courses and seven wines, to
toast this 'fraternal feast' of the Mexican and Japanese Army and Navy and
to make a speech teeming with portents of common action against a common
enemy." The common enemy, of course, was the United States.

The German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm, who was plotting to cause a war between
the U.S. and Japan in order to divert American attention from the impending
war between Germany and Great Britain, obtained by espionage a copy of the
secret Japan-Mexico treaty of Magdalena Bay and provided it to the U.S.
ambassador in Mexico City. The ambassador rushed to Washington to consult
with President Taft and the Cabinet.

"The morning after (the ambassador's) arrival, March 6, 1911, the country
was astounded by the news that the President had mobilized twenty thousand
troops, two-thirds of the regular Army, on the Mexican border, and had sent
the fleet steaming to the Gulf. Mr. Taft said it was maneuvers, but
everyone else said it meant war with Japan," Tuchman wrote in her history
of the affair. Later, it became evident that Taft was more concerned about
protecting American business interests in Mexico from revolutionary forces
than by any threat of invasion by Japan via Mexico. But Germany had
succeeded in provoking a crisis.

Although a Japanese naval base never materialized in Magdalena Bay, it is
apparent that Japan has maintained a remarkable hold on the lower Baja
region for decades. Mitsubishi, the world's largest corporation and long
considered an unrivalled arm of the Japanese government (or vice versa),
has been able to operate with impunity along a 400-mile stretch of wild
Pacific coastline--an area now known to be rich in oil and gas. No other
foreign interests are allowed such license by the Mexican government.

Will the gray whales and their critical habitat, the vast lagoons of Baja
California, be sacrificed to the reckless greed of Mitsubishi? Or will the
Mexican government and the Mexican people defend their national
sovereignty, and declare that the secret naval treaty of 1908 is no longer
valid, and that the whales and their winter homes shall be protected?

Japan Threatens Mexico's Gray Whale Lagoons
A giant, new salt-mining operation being promoted by Japan's all-powerful
Mitsubishi Corp. will wreck the most vital and critical habitat of the gray
whale.

Construction has already begun secretly on the 100-square-mile project in
the San Ignacio Lagoon halfway down the Baja California peninsula. It
ignores legal protection for the lagoon, home of the famous "friendly" gray
whales that attract tens of thousands of whale-watchers each year.

In 1972, the Mexican government declared the San Ignacio Lagoon legally
protected from such commercial activity. In 1988, the entire Vizcaino
Desert region, including the lagoon, was designated a Biosphere Reserve,
adding further protections for the unique ecosystem. And in 1993, UNESCO
listed the San Ignacio and nearby Guerrero Negro lagoons as a World
Heritage Site.

The industrial threats to the gray whales in Baja California are detailed
in a lengthy report, The Gray Zone, published this week by international
environmental groups, including the Investigative Network, Whale and
Dolphin Conservation Society and the Swiss Coalition for the Protection of
Whales.

Mitsubishi already operates a 120-square-mile salt-evaporation mine at the
Guerrero Negro lagoon. Once a haven for thousands of female gray whales to
calve and nurse their young, this huge inland sea is being steadily
abandoned by the whales because of pollution and ship traffic from the
mine. South of both Guerrero Negro and San Ignacio lagoons is the third
major sanctuary for mother and baby gray whales, Magdalena Bay.

The Magdalena Bay refuge is also being ravaged by development -- again by
Mitsubishi. The giant corporation's real estate subsidiary controls huge
tracts of coastal land that are being mined for minerals and converted into
resorts and marinas. The Japanese government acquired ownership of the
southern Baja coastline in a secret treaty with Mexico in 1908. (See
following story: "Does Japan Own Baja California?")

"The Corporation shows total disregard for Mexico's natural heritage in
pressuring the government into exploiting its resources," comments
Katherine Hanly, author of "The Gray Zone".

The Japanese chemical industry is profiting mightily from the cheap salt
extracted from the Baja lagoons. The Mexican people and the gray whales are
suffering from this foreign industrial exploitation.

Although the Mexican government owns 51 percent of the salt company,
Exportadora de Sal, it is Mitsubishi, the minority owner with 49 percent,
that is getting rich. Will the Mexican government follow the
recommendations of its own scientists and the Mexican environmental
community, led by Grupo de los Cien (the Group of 100), and kill the
saltworks at San Ignacio Lagoon? Or will Mitsubishi be allowed to continue
to despoil the last refuge of the gray whales?

"The new saltworks is firmly opposed by the local population, who earn a
good livelihood from fishing and whalewatching-related activities. It is
illegal under existing Mexican law, as well as economically unfeasible
because international salt markets Mexico serves are saturated," observes
Homero Aridjis, the distinguished author who heads Grupo de los Cien.


Promises, Mon, Promises

St. Vincent and the Grenadines seems to be suffering from wacko-whalers
disease. Their memory is failing concerning lone whalers retiring, the
killing of cow-calf pairs and supplying the Commission with documentation.
ECO provides the following to set the official record straight:

Phase-out

1987: 37th Annual Report

"..the Vincentians have a long tradition of artisanal whaling presently
phasing out slowly, which results today in the taking of very few humpback
whales."


1989: 39th Annual Report

"...the phasing-out of whaling would take place naturally as the single
harpooner was 67 years of age. The Netherlands therefore understood that
the whaling operations will cease when the present harpooner ends his
activities."


Collection of data/reporting of information

1991: 41st Annual Report

"It recommended that every attempt should be made to collect as much
information as possible from them ... photographs should be taken of the
ventral surface ... samples should be taken for genetic analysis..."


1994: 44th Annual Report.

"The Committee reiterates its recommendation that if whales are taken,
every attempt should be made to collect as much information as possible ...
The Committee noted that such information had not been received from the
earlier catch."


Taking of mother-calf pairs

1988: 38th Annual Report

"It also stated that it would in future make every effort to get the single
remaining harpooner to comply with Schedule paragraph 14: It is forbidden
to take or kill suckling calves or female whales accompanied by calves."


1994: 44th Annual Report

"... St. Vincent and The Grenadines agreed that, in a spirit of
cooperation, it would provide information about the taking of a cow and
calf in February 1993 ... The Netherlands stresses that infractions
committed by small aboriginal subsistence operations should be treated with
the same vigor as any other, and New Zealand drew attention to the
international legal obligations to deal with this infraction and urged St.
Vincent and The Grenadines to fulfill its responsibilities under the
Convention."


For the record

1996 Whaling Season

The lone harpooner has not retired. A second "fishery" with a new boat has
been put into service and a younger harpooner is being trained.

Two humpback whales were struck, but not landed this year. Misreporting by
the St. Vincent commissioner continues. Taking cow-calf pairs remains the
primary method for taking humpback whales in St. Vincent. The old whaler
boasts of receiving no orders to quit.

To date, none of the above promised reports or documentation have been
supplied to the Scientific Committee nor to the Commission.


DNA Shows Most Whale Species Still Available in Japanese and Korean Markets

The conservation organizations Earthtrust and International Fund for Animal
Welfare (IFAW) this week announced the results of 3 years of DNA analysis
of whalemeat samples collected in Japanese and Korean markets. Despite the
fact that only minke whales are "legally" taken, a surprising diversity of
whale and dolphin meat was found, sold as "kujira" or "gorae" (both terms
translate as "whale").

One dramatic finding was a sample of raw meat sold in 1993 and analyzed
this year, and a sample of bacon sold in 1995. These samples matched the
mitochondrial DNA haplotype of a hybrid blue/fin whale taken in 1989 in
Iceland. Thus these whale meat samples are either from blue whales or
blue/fin hybrids. Further genetic analysis is planned to resolve this
question.

"If either one of the 'blue whale' samples was derived from the Icelandic
whale taken in 1989, it must have been exported to Japan between 1989 and
1992. However, the last legal imports from Iceland were sei whale (1990)
and fin whale (1991). Thus, it boils down to whether the '93 and '95
samples could both have come from a blue/fin hybrid whale caught in Iceland
in 1989 and then exported to Japan in 1990 or 1991 as a sei or fin whale
and kept frozen there until 1993 and 1995," stated Dr. Frank Cipriano of
the University of Hawaii's Kewalo Marine Laboratory.

Noted Don White of Earthtrust: "In fact, in a total sampling of only 150
different products, the only baleen whales not represented in the samples
were bowhead, right, gray, and sei whales. Many species of dolphins and
small cetaceans were also sold as whale... It's appalling that blue whale
meat may still be sold 30 years after their 'protection' by the
International Whaling Commission."

The researchers were also able to confirm that meat purchased in Korea in
1994 was from a new species of baleen whale, the "pygmy" Bryde's whale
thought to be found only in tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific (from
Indonesia to the Philippines). "It is troubling that a previously
unrecognized species of baleen whale is for sale in Korean restaurants
eight years after a moratorium on commercial whaling," stated Dr. Scott
Baker. "Given that we know so little about its abundance and distribution,
we need to consider the possibility that the "pygmy" Bryde's whale is being
depleted or endangered by even a low level of illegal hunting or bycatch."

"The results of this work show clearly that any whaling on abundant
species, such as the minke whale, also puts highly endangered whale and
dolphins at risk " said Naoko Funahashi of IFAW.

This is the latest data from an initiative started in 1993 when Earthtrust
buyers collected whale meat in Japan and secured the collaboration of
whale-DNA scientists Dr. C. Scott Baker and Dr. Steve Palumbi to analyze
meat collected by trained wildlife agents. That initial sampling showed a
large diversity of products including the meat of the endangered humpback
and other "protected" species.

In the years since, the techniques have been improved to the point where
previously difficult-to-analyze samples may be readily amplified and
identified, hence the new 1993 Japan results. Moreover, scientists working
on this initiative have developed a "double blind" approach, in which each
sample is analyzed in a somewhat different method in a separate lab, to
provide certainty in identification of species.

In addition, surveys and analysis of the Korea marketplace were done in
1994 and 1995, funded by Earthtrust, the Endangered Species Project, Whale
and Dolphin Conservation Society, and IFAW. Commercial whaling is banned in
Korea; moreover, these surveys show availability of several whale species
which cannot plausibly come from local sources, such as bycatch.

Many additional questions have been raised by this work which need to be
answered by Japanese and Korean Governments:

Where and when did the blue whales come from, if blue whales are not
being hunted?

Where and when did the northern hemisphere minkes come from? The
Bryde's? The fins? The humpback?

Where are the incidental catch records, if these are from incidental
catches?

Where are the import permits and storage documentation, if they were
imported so long ago and stored ever since?

If stockpiles exist, isn't there a need for them to be fully checked,
and genetically tested independently?


The Earthtrust Initiative was funded in 1995 by The Whale and Dolphin
Conservation Society, Humane Society of the United States, Geraldine R.
Dodge Foundation, and other contributors. The work of Dr. C. S. Baker, and
Dr. Gina Lento, and the collection of many of the 1995 Japan samples and
all 1995 Korea samples, was funded by IFAW.

The work of these groups is continuing, with Earthtrust announcing a new
collaboration with Harvard University to be overseen by Dr. Steve Palumbi
to research new and faster techniques of analysis.


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