Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Competition between Fisheries and Marine Mammals: Feeding Marine Mammals at the Expense of Food for Humans

Joji Morishita, Dan Goodman


In June 2000, the government of Japan presented its proposal for the second phase of its whale research program in the northwestern Pacific to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). This research proposal includes collection of data on minke whale stock identity required to address outstanding questions from its 1994–1999 research (known as JARPN) and a new sampling program that involves studies on prey consumption by cetaceans, prey preferences of cetaceans, and ecosystem modeling. The research is a 2-year feasibility study that involves the take of up to 100 minke whales Balaenoptera acutorostrata, 50 Bryde’s whales Balaenoptera edeni, and 10 sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus from abundant stocks in each of the 2 years (Government of Japan 2000).

This new research program, called JARPN II, began in July 2000 and resulted in “certification” by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce that the program “diminishes the effectiveness of the IWC’s [International Whaling Commission’s] whale conservation program” and threats of U.S. sanctions against Japan. In the narrow context of the IWC, it should be noted that Japan’s whale research is perfectly legal and that threats of sanctions are therefore unwarranted political coercion.

From a broader perspective, the research is being conducted in the waters around Japan, where catches in certain fisheries are declining. Meanwhile, sampling reveals that minke whales are eating at least 10 of the target species of these fisheries, including Japanese anchovy Engraulis japonicus, Pacific saury Cololabis saira, and walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma (Government of Japan 2000).

Marine mammal interactions with fisheries have become a major issue worldwide. It is an important issue in the context of world food security because cetaceans are estimated to consume three to five times the amount of marine resources harvested for human consumption (Tamura and Ohsumi 2000). Many international fisheries organizations have urged the development of multi-species management systems (e.g., see the reports in the reference list from FAO, PICES, and NAMMCO). Indeed, in 1998, the High-Level Panel of External Experts in Fisheries of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expressed the view that FAO and all fishery bodies must increasingly develop an ecosystem approach to management. Given FAO’s projection for supply and demand of products from marine fisheries—which shows that 10 years from now, only at the lower end of the range projected for demand, can this be met by supply (FAO 1999a)— it is clear that fisheries management regimes must be based on multispecies models that account for the consumption of fish by marine mammals.

Japan conducted a whale research program in the northwestern Pacific from 1994 to 1999 (JARPN) under a Special Permit as provided for by Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). The results of this research were reviewed at an IWC Scientific Committee workshop held in February 2000 (IWC 2000b).