Monday, January 26, 2009

blackmail and tradeoffs

I read over this last weekend the US is preparing to sign a new Whaling treaty with Japan. This treaty will open up coastal water to Japanese whaling ships to hunt and harvest whales. Sounds bad except in return Japan agrees to reduce it's harvest of whales elsewhere for "scientific purposes", which is their language around the international agreements on limits to commercial harvests of whale.

The point is Japan doesn't officially harvest commercial whales beyond their quota, but collects them for scientific purposes, except all those whales are never studied and only end up in Japan's food industry markets. Many of the ships in their whaling fleet are "reseach ships", which are occasionally accompanied by secret Japanese Navy spy or "defense" ships to hunt, chase, and attack Greenpeace and Sea Shepard ships.

So, the deal is that Japan will supposedly hunt less whales, meaning actually live within their quota by reducing the open ocean catch, and we, meaning the US, will open our waters to their ships. So when does a trade-off become blackmail? Instead of pressuring Japan to reduce illegal and excessive whaling, we're giving them fresh sources of whales we know will be for commercial markets in hopes they'll reduce the harvest in other areas. But what if they don't?

Who will monitor they harvest in our waters? And if they exceed their quota? And if they don't reduce their harvest elsewhere? We trust them and their reports? The article didn't have the complete text or links to the treaty, but it smacks to me of blackmail by Japan in the name of conservation. It's blackmail disguised as a trade-off, and we're paying the price as they harvest whales in US waters.

And here's the catch. If the Greenpeace or Sea Shepards ships being to harass the Japanese whaling ships, the Japanese can ask for and expect the US Navy to intervene and protect their treaty rights, including taking action against any ship threatening or attacking their ships. Is that good for us? Or just for them? And what about Greenpeace and Sea Shepard's right to protest? We will protect them then?

The point is that Japan doesn't want to, and we know won't, reduce their harvest of whales, they have no economic incentives. But we can help them by putting an environmental face on it. That's blackmail at our expense. But then I'll see how it goes, or floats as they say. I'm still not holding my breath Japan is honest here, just using us to help their economy.

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