by Pete Bethune
A faint smile crosses my face as the name comes up on my vibrating cell phone. It’s been a while since I’ve spoken to Tsubasa, my friend in Japan, and I’ve missed his updates.
“Konichiwa Tsubasa”, I say cheerily down the phone.
There’s a long silence before his gravelly old voice comes through. “Peter San, how are you my friend.”
“Really good mate. And you?”
“Well”, he says quickly. “I do not have long. But I have important information for you.”
“What’s that”, I reply, surprised at Tsbasa’s urgency. Normally he will talk about family and friends before ever discussing the main business.
“The ICR is about to go bankrupt”, he replies with finality. His words hit me full on.
“Are you sure?” I had thought it likely they may pull out of Antarctic whaling, but to see them actually go bust… That would see an end to their northern Pacific whaling program as well. It all seems too good to be true.
“Peter san. They have no money left. Japanese people have simply stopped eating whale. The price of whale is cheaper than it has ever been. It is now the same price as low-grade beef, and yet still the ICR cannot sell it. They are about to go bankrupt.”
I sit there for a few seconds letting his words sink in. It seems incredible that such a powerful organisation could now be about to fold. “What about the government? Will they allow ICR to go bust?”
“Actually Peter san, that is why I called. The ICR have asked for forty million dollars from the government. This is secret negotiation. No one knows of this. Our economy is in ruins. The earthquake and tsunami has brought our economy to its knees. We have many good things that need such money. And some of us here believe that the ICR is not one of them.
“Why do you tell me these things Tsubasa?” Actually I’d wondered this a year ago when Tsubasa first started giving me information. He has always been correct with what he told me, but I could never understand exactly why I was the recipient.
“Peter san. In the past I always supported whaling by Japan. It was good for Japanese people. But now, many of us here do not see it so good. We offend many people with the whaling. It costs a lot of tax money to keep the company going. And I think maybe if it were to stop now it would be a good thing. I am sure you will be happy with this. No?”
“Tsubasa bro, the day Japan calls off all whaling will be a day I will celebrate for sure.”
I sit there pondering what has led to this situation. It seems the stars might all be coming into alignment for an end to whaling. Japanese consumers have certainly shied away from whale meat in the last few years. In the last Antarctic campaign, Japan only caught 172 whales, and yet they still have a massive stockpile in Tokyo. They have also stopped all purchases of whale from Iceland. So clearly they are selling little meat.
New laws governing fuel oil and double hulls in Antarctica have also just come into effect, and the existing whaling fleet is far from compliant. Japan could cite scientific research as an excuse and ignore them, but the government must have more pressing issues to be battling right now.
And then there is the economic angle that Tsubasa mentions. Their economy is reeling, and there is much sympathy towards Japan right now, reflected in the massive contributions from numerous counties to assist in the difficult rebuild process. To see Japan sling forty million dollars propping up an ailing business offensive to so many western countries, well it wouldn’t go down well in the cocktail circuit in DC I expect.
I say my goodbyes to Tsubasa and thank him for his information. The question on my mind is does he speak the truth? He’s always been correct with his intel before. And he is definitely well connected in whaling and government circles. I pull out my laptop and start typing. “Japanese Whaling about to collapse!” Wow. To be able to write that…