Using yen as bait fails to lift whaling ban

"OUR ANGER has grown to its highest level," fumed Kazuo Shima, the Japanese delegate to the annual general meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), after Tokyo's attempts at yen diplomacy failed to prevent an extension of the global ban on commercial whaling (Down To Earth, April 30, 1993).

The IWC ended five days of acrimonious debate rebuffing Japan and Norway on the matter of ending the 1985 moratorium on whale hunting, but allowed the Japanese a face-saving gesture by putting off voting on a French proposal for a whale sanctuary in the Antarctic to the next IWC meeting in Mexico in May 1994.

Japan and Norway, however, will be allowed to catch specified numbers of minke whales, ostensibly for research. But the catch usually ends up in restaurants.

The Japanese reportedly practised yen diplomacy to make allies of small island countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean in their battle to end restrictions on whaling. It granted substantial economic aid to Grenada and the Solomon Islands -- both non-whaling nations that have recently become members of the IWC. In the past Japan had criticised anti-whaling nations of using their economic leverage to get non-whaling nations into the IWC and on their side.

The environmental NGO, Greenpeace, said the decision to defer action on the French sanctuary proposal is "an important first step to realising the sanctuary idea" and the World Wide Fund for Nature called it "an appropriate process".

The IWC meeting also adopted a UK-sponsored resolution to establish a working group to push for whalewatching, an expanding tourist industry that generates estimated global revenues of more than $300 million.