What's happening at the
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 05:16 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 05:16 | SYDNEY

Whaling: Japan does conduct research



15 March 2013 10:53

I thank Mr Watson for his response to my recent post. Unfortunately, space doesn't allow me to respond in kind to everything he has said, so in my final response I'll focus on the following:

1. I'll begin by affording Mr Watson the same qualifier he graciously afforded me. That is, he has a right to his opinion like everyone else. His claim that Japan's scientific whaling is commercial and therefore in violation of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary is, in his opinion, 'as simple as simple gets'. But while I certainly agree that Mr Watson's interpretation is both an opinion he is entitled to and conveniently simple, that doesn't make it true under international law.

The IWC's convention clearly grants member states the right to run scientific whaling programs, and it is under this provision that Japan legally takes a number of mostly minke whales in the Antarctic, since it is scientific and not commercial whaling.

What Mr Watson does not acknowledge is that Japanese scientists regularly present information on findings, methods and progress relating to this research (both lethal and non-lethal) to the IWC Scientific Committee, where it is peer reviewed. Criticism of the research is made, as is normal with peer review, as are recommendations and also statements acknowledging the contribution it makes.

Not surprisingly, given the controversial nature of whaling, opinions on the research and its contribution within the Scientific Committee have been and remain divided, particularly over the topic of lethal sampling (which a simple majority of the commission opposes). But to claim, as Mr Watson does, that there is no research going on and that therefore Japan is breaking international law by whaling commercially is not a balanced representation of what has been happening (it's also worth noting that much of the IWC's field research is made possible by Japan's provision of ships).

Moreover, Mr Watson is confusing two distinct questions. First, are the Japanese producing scientific research from the their activities in the Antarctic? Clearly they are! And second, does everyone agree that this research is useful? Clearly they don't, since the issue of killing whales for research purposes is controversial. But the question of whether or not killing whales in order to do this research is acceptable is a political, not a scientific, question.

2. Contrary to Mr Watson's claim, I'm not making any claims on the basis of science; I'm only arguing that science, rather than only cultural predilections, should have a say in how conservation management works.

3. Mr Watson should play the ball and not the man. He claims that because I have lived and worked in Japan and because the School of Government and International Relations where I teach and research international relations (not business) resides within a 'business school', I am therefore both 'pro-Japan' and 'pro-business'. I'll leave the soundness and rigour of this reasoning for others to judge.

4. Mr Watson misses my point concerning Australia's inability to apply its domestic law in the Antarctic, which he appeared to believe Australia should be doing (when admonishing Rear Admiral Goldrick for not using the RAN to stop Japanese whaling), and is now confusing my point about Australian domestic law with the Gillard Government's ICJ action against Japan.

Photo by Flickr user Cernavoda.

You may also be interested in...