ANDREW DARBY June 15, 2012
Whales on a Japanese whaling vessel in the Southern Ocean. Photo: Reuters/Greenpeace
Striking evidence is emerging that whale meat sales in Japan are crashing, with three-quarters of a "scientific" catch said to have failed to sell at auction.
Monitoring of public auctions of the frozen meat discovered that only about 300 tonnes of an 1211-tonne total found buyers, the Japanese Dolphin and Whale Action Network (IKAN) said.
The whalers' organiser, the Institute for Cetacean Research, admitted to Kyodo News it could not achieve anticipated results.
An institute official said "complicated procedures" involved in the tender was a reason for ditching the method and returning to direct one-to-one sales.
The institute has used whale meat sales to offset whaling costs, but last year was forced to rely on a $28 million government bail-out, using funds from an earthquake-tsunami mini-budget.
"With the whale meat silently mounting in their warehouses, the future of the ICR is uncertain," IKAN researcher Junko Sakuma said.
Ms Sakuma examined auctions of the 2011 North Pacific catch, taken by the same factory fleet that hunts whales in the Antarctic.
She said undisclosed indicative prices based on the 2010 catch showed that almost all of the meat sold was heavily discounted. Bryde's whale red meat went for half of the indicative price.
Only the best cuts of minke whale meat, amounting to just 300 kilograms, managed to sell for a higher price.
Already the ICR has disclosed it is giving away another 236 tonnes to rural communities and for school lunches.
The latest failure comes despite sharply reduced whale meat availability from the main Antarctic hunt under conservationist pressure.
Ms Sakuma said pressure would rise on the ICR to sell the auction leftovers by any means possible.
She said the fleet brought back 266 minke whales and one fin whale from the Antarctic on 31 March.
"Extrapolating from the amount of by-product produced from a single whale in the past, the volume of whale meat involved is likely over 1000 tonnes."