Herewith the regs on whaling, in brief: http://www.boston.com/news/world/asi...whaling_rules/
I suspect there is something more significant than just harvesting whales at issue here. As cited by tdw, the Japanese affinity for whale meat has been subsiding for some time now, and there is evidence that the market demand for whale has declined as a result of it's protracted absence from the market. Some commodities become more desirable with scarcity, whale meat apparently not one of them. But, I think the Japanese research efforts are aimed at emphasizing a greater point.
Japan is one of the world's largest consumers of seafood and has a vital interestm in the management of the world's fisheries and seafood stocks. Many species and areas are being over fished. Because of their traditional diet, which is suspected to be the cause of the Japanese longevity, the Japanese have a large stake in ascerting their rights within the world's fishing grounds. Seen in that light, it is reasonable to see how whaling is only one part, if only the first part, of an overall strategy to preserve Japanese fishing rights. The fighting over whaling will be tame compared to the fighting over tuna.
Regarding the humpbacks, which have enjoyed world-wide protection since the early sixties, the numbers seem to be fairly clear. From less than 2000 in 1963 their numbers have grown to approximately 40,000 and they are increasing at an annual rate of 15%. Surely, this is one of conservation's, and even the tree-hugger's, greatest success stories. But the more radical elements of these groups will find it difficult to argue persuasively the non-use of an arguably renewable resource. It would hardly be the first time we have seen the eco-left at odds with itself. A focus on renewable energy sources seems odd when compared to a ban on renewable food sources.
Conservation policy needs periodic influxes of good old common sense in order to avoid the "Bambi" syndrome which the US currently enjoys. Deer hunting has been roundly condemned as crude, anachronistic, excessively macho, and unnecessary for the better part of the last 40 years. The result we see today, after decades of "don't shoot Bambi", is an actual decline in the numbers of hunting licenses issued. Hunting deer is slowly going out of style. Ironically, this is occuring in a time where the deer population is exploding. Historically, the one man-one buck days are long gone. Time was when one could maybe get a doe permit and take two deer per annum. Today one can take five or six under the various seasons and hunting methods, and yet the deer population remains undented. Agricultural damage has reached the point where farmers are free to shoot deer as they would any other varmint and the DNR willfully looks away. Deer-vehicle accidents continue to rise and, in many states, are the number one cause of vehicle accidents. States are mulling their options for reducing a deer population that is widely acknowledged to be out of control. The eco-left has no answer to provide since it's entire focus has been on condemning the acts that were most effective at killing deer in the first place. That is, most effective after nature's own final starvation method which is currently predominant and the reason one is unsurprised to see deer in such interesting locales as the backyards of metro Detroit residents. We've also seen less than favorable results from the reintroduction of the der's natural predators the wolf and the cougar. It seems that some of these predators are more inclined to eat your slow moving cow, or snatch little Johnny from his sandbox, than they are to exert themselves running Bambi to ground. A complicated matter this nature management business. (TIC)
Back to whales. It's often stated that humpback, and the other large whales, have no natural predators to control their growth, only man kills them. This is a patently false argument, based upon a simplistic reading of nature. Nature will always regulate species. In fact nature alone has often regulated species right into extinction. Starvation is the obvious regulation of last resort. The idea that man knows what nature's perfect balance consists of is just hubris. Nature is continually shifting the playing fields in ways that we are incapable of seeing in real time. An apparently perfect balance of species looks wildly out of whack a mere twenty years later. The global warming alarmists find their backs against the wall for similar reasons. They've allowed the perception to grow that the world's temperature is a matter similar to home climate control where the heating and cooling systems keep the interior of the structure at a preset temperature and humidity year round. The GW alarmists cannot reliably state what our temperature should be because they only know what it might have been a few centuries ago and what it was last week. And those are not static figures. If nature decides to turn the thermostat down to 68 degrees who are we to say it's not "normal"? But man is predisposed to putting hard numbers to all he studies and hence we feel there is an optimum or normal temperature for the planet as well as a number of whales. Except the only number we've come up with for whales, like trees, is "more". Well. The North American continent currently has more tree cover than when John Smith first went a turkey huntin'. No, they're not where they "were". But there are significantly more trees. Yet, no one argues that we have enough, resulting in endless replaying of public service ads with John Denver's one octave singing voice urging us to, "plant a tree for tomorrow". Lost amidst the sappy lyrics is any mention of Weyerhauser, the world's largest tree planting outfit.
So what are the "proper" numbers of each species of whale? Since none of us have an intellectually honest answer to that question, perhaps we should look then to what we do know; the rate of increase in population. And if the rate of increase is on the order of 15%, or merely 5%, then it is somewhat reasonable to say that we not only do not have an apparent long term problem, but in fact have a renewable food resource from which it is reasonable to harvest some of it's bounty. If the eco-left's assertion that man is the only known predator of the whale then it would seem that we'll be nudging them out of the way before long undocking our boats much as we currently are trying to keep Bambi out of the vegetable garden in the backyard, if not off the windshield.
Moderation is the watchword in all things. We can have humpback whales cavorting about in abundance while, at the same time, serve whale meat on Japanese and Inuit tables. They are not mutually exclusive.
And if some popinjay wants to sail about the southern oceans for his own personal crusade and aggrandizement that's fine by me. Just don't expect me to take him any more seriously than I do those intrepid thousand day adventurers on board the S/V Beansprout or whatever their calling their vessel. They have at least endeavored to keep their manically self-absorbed voyage, subsidized by others, to warmer climes. He could have accomplished much the same goal only last summer from the comfortable waters of the Sacramento ship channel and the adjacent waters of San Francisco Bay, all the while indulging himself in some of the remarkable vintages of Napa, not to mention the access to the legendary California female research assistants. And those pesky whales hung around long enough that I'm sure there must be someone who managed to push through a federal research grant to study them!