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TOKYO, Japan -- A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that around 85 tonnes of whale meat, sent to Japan in late May 2008 from Northern Europe, and for which the Japanese government has not yet received an application for import procedures, may have to be discarded.
The importing company responsible for the whale meat claimed it was “helping out our friends in Iceland” when questioned by Greenpeace on 4 June. The company had started operating again in May, with three new directors being appointed in order to import this batch of whale meat. On August 26, when Greenpeace asked why no request for the appropriate import procedures had yet been submitted over two and-a-half months later, the company refused to answer.
Japanese customs law limits the storage time of goods in bonded warehouses. The whale meat - consisting of between 60 and 80 tonnes of fin whale meat from Iceland, and about 5 tonnes of Minke whale meat from Norway - has now been stored in a domestic bonded warehouse for well over two months. Overseas goods are stored until permission for import is received from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Import (METI). Goods likely to deteriorate or decay may be discarded if they are stored for more than three months without the appropriate paperwork.
“This pointless import only serves to increase criticism of Japan,” said Wakao Hanaoka, Greenpeace Japan’s oceans campaigner. “The whale meat should be returned to its senders at their own expense.”
When asked by Greenpeace Japan about the possible scrapping of the whale meat, the Fisheries Agency of Japan stated there was nothing it could do if the import permission was not received. With the time limit for storage of the whale meat now imminent, it is still not clear what will happen to the meat.
“Whales, as living organisms at the top of the marine ecosystem, are extremely important for protecting the ocean environment, and we should therefore pay close attention to how they are treated,” concluded Hanaoka. “The Fisheries Agency also needs to strive in future to protect the marine ecosystem by revising its own lethal research programme - which has led to the deaths of almost 8,700 whales in whale sanctuaries across the Southern Oceans - and move on to non-lethal means of conducting research on whales.