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Friday, May 23, 2008

Whale meat being sold before OK: Greenpeace


Staff writer

Whale meat from Japan's processing ship Nisshin Maru is being illegally sold prior to the official government release of whale stocks, activists from the environmental group Greenpeace charged Thursday.

The sale of whale meat may only take place "once the International Whaling Commission meeting is finished in June," Sara Holden, a coordinator for the group, told a news conference in Tokyo. Greenpeace said it has obtained testimony from traders and bar owners that the meat from Japan's whale research missions is already being traded on the black market.

"Anything on the market prior to (June), from this year's expedition, is clearly, already illegal," Holden said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.

The operator of the Nisshin Maru says the meat had legitimately been distributed among its crew as souvenirs and not resold to third parties.

The Fisheries Agency said it has been aware of such acts, although officials have admitted there are no established rules regulating them.

The conservation group has said it "intercepted" 2.5 kg of whale meat last month that had been shipped from the 8,044-ton Nisshin Maru to the home of a crew member in Hokkaido.

In addition to alleging that 12 crew members were involved in illegally shipping out whale meat without the approval of the Fisheries Agency, Greenpeace said it is "assured" through its own investigation that this year's whale meat is already being sold on the market.

Greenpeace has filed a criminal complaint with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office, alleging that large-scale theft of whale meat was rampant in the government-subsidized whaling program, said Junichi Sato, director of the Greenpeace Japan Ocean Campaign.

However, Hirohisa Shigemune, a spokesman for whaling fleet operator Kyodo Senpaku, criticized the group for "acting on their own convenience" while "committing an act of larceny" by stealing a crew member's property.

Shigemune told The Japan Times by telephone that Kyodo Senpaku hands out 8.8 kg of whale meat as souvenirs to each of its crew at the end of each year's hunt, and has set a self-imposed limit that only an additional 3.2 kg can be purchased if desired.

"A crew member who is not keen on whale meat may contribute his share to others, but the maximum amount of meat assigned to each crew is 12 kg," Shigemune said, adding that Kyodo Senpaku instructs its crew not to resell the meat.

"We feel completely fine with what we are doing. In fact, I can't understand what the problem is," Shigemune said.

Last week, Gifu-based Seino Transportation Co. filed a theft complaint with Aomori police, alleging Greenpeace activists stole a package containing whale meat from its branch office in the prefecture.

Greenpeace claims the box "was indispensable physical evidence to file a criminal complaint" and the group did not attempt to profit from the "interception."



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