Whaling in Japan is on the verge of collapse

The tide of public opinion in Japan has finally begun to turn against the whalers, writes Junichi Sato, the executive and programme director of Greenpeace Japan….

In 2008, a colleague and I intercepted a box of whale meat intended as “souvenirs” for the Japanese whaling fleet’s crew. Greenpeace investigations of corruption inside the whaling programme funded by Japanese taxes, prompted by whistleblowers inside the industry, revealed that the embezzlement, gifting and eventual sale of prized whale meat cuts on the black market was a common practice.

We handed the box to Japanese authorities and called for an investigation. But instead of investigating our claims, the Japanese authorities decided instead to prosecute myself and my colleague for theft and trespass. We were convicted in September 2010 and sentenced to a 12-month suspended prison sentence, a conviction that we are currently appealing. Our case has not only helped to focus public opinion onto the whaling issue inside Japan, it also brought international legal pressure over the prosecution of two activists.

Because of our case, many inside Japan are now aware of the whaling industry’s kickbacks and embezzlement. The tide of public opinion in Japan has finally begun to turn against the whalers, which will eventually drive a stake through the heart of my country’s whaling industry. The facts are clear: there is shrinking demand for whale meat, and roughly 6,000 tonnes of it are sitting in cold storage. For the first time, people in Japan are beginning to wonder why a fleet of Japanese ships is travelling thousands of miles to bring back unwanted meat.

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