Companies Linked to Japanese Whaling; Conservationists Call for Action
In letters released today, Humane Society International, the Environmental Investigation Agency and the International Fund for Animal Welfare urged three Japanese seafood companies and their U.S. subsidiaries to use their influence with the Japanese government to end the imminent slaughter of nearly 1,000 whales in a whale sanctuary around Antarctica. Today’s action coincides with the arrival of the Japanese whaling fleet in the international sanctuary.
Japanese seafood giants Nippon Suisan, Kyokuyo and Maruha jointly owned and operated Japan’s whaling fleet for decades and devised a plan to significantly expand Japanese whaling in the 2007/2008 whaling season. Under the plan, first announced in 2005, more than 1,000 whales will be hunted in the internationally recognized Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary over the next three months, including 50 endangered fin whales, 50 humpback whales and 935 minke whales. Later in 2008, Japan will continue to target endangered whales in the North Pacific.
All three Japanese companies have previously stated they would stop selling whale products after international pressure was exerted on their U.S. subsidiaries and trading partners. However, the companies have refused to shut down the whaling fleet, or withdraw their expanded whaling plan. Instead, the companies enabled the plan’s continuation by passing their shares to the whaling institute, (the Institute of Cetacean Research-ICR) and non-profit entities.
“It is not enough that these companies are no longer actively participating in the slaughter; they are obligated to make amends by actively trying to stop the whale hunt altogether,” said Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International. “Twenty-plus years of corporate irresponsibility for killing these endangered animals does not end overnight simply because they hand off the business to someone else to continue the slaughter. Our groups have more than 12 million supporters who expect these companies to clean up the mess they made.”
“These companies have a lot of dead whales to answer for,” said Patrick Ramage, global whale program manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “They set this plan in motion and put the humpbacks, fins and other whales in the gunsights. They must act now to stop what they started and prevent the illegal killing of these protected species.”
“We have appealed to Nippon Suisan, Kyokuyo and Maruha to close their whaling fleet and end their 20-year effort to undercut the ban on commercial killing of whales,” said Allan Thornton, President of the Environmental Investigation Agency. “They rejected our appeals to close their whaling fleet and conspired to allow the hunt not only to continue but to be expanded to kill endangered humpback and fin whales.”
- More than 10,000 whales have been killed in the past 20 years by the whaling fleet operated by Kyodo Senpaku, a company owned by Nippon Suisan, Kyokuyo and Maruha, which together sold tens of millions of cans of whale meat in Japanese supermarkets each year.
- Nippon Suisan, Kyokuyo and Maruha are three of Japan’s largest seafood distributors with multibillion dollar sales each year. Gorton’s of Gloucester and King and Prince Seafoods are Nippon Suisan U.S. subsidiaries.
- The three companies operated major commercial whaling operations for nearly a century. Between 1929 and 1986 nearly 400,000 great whales were killed by these companies in the North Pacific and Southern Oceans.
- In 1976, the whaling departments of the three companies merged to form Nippon Kyodo Hogei Co. Ltd, killing 35,000 whales by 1986 when the IWC ban on commercial hunting came into effect.
- In 1987, the year after the ban, the three companies dissolved Nippon Kyodo Hogei and its assets were transferred to a new company, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, with Nippon Suisan, Maruha and Kyokuyo each owning one-third of the company.
- The Presidents of Nippon Suisan, Naoya Kakizoe and the President of Maruha, Yuji Igashura are both Vice Presidents of the Japan Fisheries Association, which has strongly lobbied for ending the ban on commercial whale hunting. A director of Kyokuyo was a director of Kyodo Senpaku.
- For 20 years, Nippon Suisan, Kyokuyo and Maruha sold large volumes of whale meat products from the Kyodo Senpaku commercial whale hunt.
- In 2005, Japan announced plans that the Kyodo Senpaku whaling fleet would begin killing up to 700 humpback and 700 fin whales starting with 50 animals of each species in 2007.
- The International Whaling Commission has adopted more than 30 resolutions since 1987 recommending or requesting member governments to reconsider or revise their special permit whaling.
- In 2006 and 2007, a coalition of environmental and animal-welfare groups demanded that Nippon Suisan, Maruha and Kyokuyo cease killing whales, close their whaling fleet and stop selling whale products. The three refused to close the whaling fleet or end the whale hunt and gave their Kyodo Senpaku shares to the Institute of Cetacean Research (a government-sponsored body) and other entities to enable the continuation and expansion of the whale kill.