03 January 2011

what whale diplomacy?

[click image]


Whose side are they on?
3 January 2011
By Yoree Koh

In the first set of cables leaked by WikiLeaks that originate from the U.S. embassy in Tokyo, Japan asked the U.S. to take action against an anti-whaling activist group for harassing Japanese whalers, including taking away the group's tax-exempt status. The cables were sent two months before a Japanese harpoon vessel collided into one of the Sea Shepherd boats, destroying the activist’s boat.

A total of four U.S. diplomatic cables — three originating from Tokyo, one from the State Department — show a push and pull effort from both countries to nudge Japan towards a more compromising position towards its controversial whale hunting activities. Japan’s escalating problems with the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society group are repeatedly mentioned from the Japanese side as a thorn in negotiating efforts.

Fisheries Agency Deputy Director General Masayuki Yamashita explained to U.S. officials that the Sea Shepherd’s actions held Japan back from fulfilling its quota for the last several years in a cable dated January 27, 2010. He implied that the confrontations were causing domestic political embarrassment for the Japanese government, making it hard for officials to negotiate with other countries.

Indeed, Japan’s troubles with the Sea Shepherd group had been highlighted early on. Referencing a discussion with an official in Japan’s fisheries ministry, the first confidential cable dated Nov. 2, 2009 indicates the Sea Shepherd was hampering its ability to curtail annual whale hunts.

“Yamada inquired about an investigation into the tax status of the U.S.-based NGO Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and repeated Japan's request for the U.S. to take action against the organization, which he said created a very dangerous situation on the seas,” according to the cable written by U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos in reference to Shuji Yamada, the vice minister of international affairs in the ministry of agricultural affairs, forestry and fisheries.

The ambitious activist group’s campaign against Japanese whalers has evolved into a high-seas drama of sorts in recent years. The group tails the large harpoon vessels during the whale hunts and hurls objects at the ships. The Sea Shepherd’s increasingly aggressive tactics resulted in multiple confrontations during the 2009-2010 whale hunting season. In January 2010, one of the Sea Shepherd's vessels crashed into a Japanese whaling ship in the Southern Ocean, destroying the activist group’s boat, which prompted the brazen skipper Paul Bethune to later board the vessel in an attempt to make a citizen’s arrest of the ship’s captain.

Japan has drawn international criticism for continuing whale hunting missions despite a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling set by the International Whaling Commission. Japan has said it is conducting “whale research," a crack in the ban that allows whales be caught for research purposes. Japanese whaling fleets depart for annual whaling hunts in the Southern Ocean in mid-November citing scientific research purposes. Critics say the real motive is to sell whale meat. The Japanese vessels kill over 500 whales each season.

Another cable sent from the Tokyo Embassy a week later — on Nov. 9, 2009 — cites the director general of the Fisheries Agency of Japan as saying U.S. action regarding the Sea Shepherd group would “positively influence Japan's negotiating position in the Future of the IWC [International Whaling Commission] process,” underscoring just how nettlesome the Sea Shepherd’s presence on the high seas has become for Japan’s whalers.

In response, the U.S. representative to the International Whaling Commission Monica Medina is cited as saying “she believes the USG can demonstrate the group does not deserve tax exempt status based on their aggressive and harmful actions.”

It's unclear whether the U.S. government ever did anything. Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, said “we have had our tax status since 1981, and we have done nothing different since then to cause the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to change that,” according to the Associated Press on Monday.

At its June 2010 annual meeting, the IWC failed to reach a compromise that would have resolved a longstanding impasse between the pro-whaling nations that include Japan, Norway and Iceland, and those against it. The IWC launched negotiations three years ago to find consensus among the member states that was set to conclude at the June meeting in Morocco, determining the long-term future of whale conservation. An embassy cable dated November 14, 2009 originating from the U.S. State Department urges U.S. negotiators to press for some agreement to reduce Japan’s catch levels.

A proposal to allow Japan to resume limited commercial whaling in its coastal waters in exchange for a reduced catch was floated in March. The commission decided to defer the proposal until 2011.

Read the WikiLeaks cables discussing Japan’s role in whale conservation here:

Nov. 2, 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Tokyo

Nov. 9, 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Tokyo

Nov. 14, 2009 cable from the U.S. Secretary of State

January 27, 2010 cable from the U.S. embassy in Tokyo
Hint: Not ours.

love, 99


  1. Came to deliver this to you, as usual you are already on it!


  2. I am SUCH an ace! I can't believe I don't get more respect!


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