Monday, February 9. 2009
The issue of Japan’s commercial whaling, sorry so-called ‘scientific whaling’, is high on the agenda again. But it’s difficult to talk about the issue when it gets mired in media cliches.
That’s said, a paper by Peter J. Corkeron, published on the 7th January 2009, (in Marine Ecology Progress Series 375: 305-309), opens up the issue with clarity and poise. Yes, poise, -I don’t think I have seen a more straightforward exposition of the problems with scientific whaling. The facts below are real, the language and extrapolation is mine and not Peter’s, so sorry Peter if I don’t do it as well as your paper deserves.
So for you and me here are the problems:
The first Japanese survey in Antarctica, JARPA I set out to evaluate the mortality of minke whales in Antarctica. To the rest of us that means they wanted to show if the minke whale population was increasing or decreasing and then use this data to say how many whales they should be allowed to kill.
Unfortunately after thousands of dead whales, a recent review of the ‘science’ that had been produced indicated that ‘the natural mortality rate had, for practical purposes, not been determined’. That’s ‘it was a total waste of time and animals lives’ to you and me.
The second research programme JARPAN II was just bad science. It took place in the North pacific and extended the whales being killed to include Bryde’s whales.
The survey design was changed part way through, so potentially invalidating previous work. Further to this the whalers actively changed their surveys when they found high concentrations of whales. That is they put the actual capture and killing whales over and above the science that they said they were doing. Because the Finance Ministry would not forgive them if they returned to port without enough whales to sell and pay back some of the subsidy that the Japanese tax payer has been shelling out for the last ten years plus.
There was also a significant gender bias in the whalers killed (they were mostly male), but the Japanese and their puppets still claim that they can make conclusions on the population dynamics from these biased samples. Now that’s just poor, poor science.
The whalers sampled stomachs of the whales they killed so that they could prove that the ‘whales were eating all the fish’. Actually of 223 whales killed, 76 whales stomachs were examined and of these some 42 animals had contents that were recognizable (undigested). Yes, that’s less than one fifth of all the animals that died…
And in conclusion (drum roll) ‘No consistent prey selection was observed across whale species, prey species, sites or years’.
That means that nothing of what the Japanese wanted to show was proved, in fact it could even mean that the reverse of what they wanted to find was demonstrated, that the whales are NOT eating all the fish. This is what happens when you try to make the science deliver up your political ambitions, when science is perverted to achieve a commercial end. This is not good science and the Japanese and their accomplices in this scientific hoodwinking should hold their heads in shame.