Japanese whalers blow the whistle on whaling program | Connect Asia

Japanese whalers blow the whistle on whaling program

Japanese whalers blow the whistle on whaling program

Posted 8 June 2010, 9:52 AEST

Australia's bid to take Japan to the International Court of Justice over its so-called scientific whaling program may be about to get a boost.

Two former Japanese whalers have told ABC television's "Foreign Correspondent" program of systemic embezzlement by crewmen onboard Japan's whaling ships. They say that crew members are taking what amounts to hundreds of kilograms of prime cuts of whale meat, either for personal consumption or to sell to restaurants.

Presenter: North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy

Kujira Tsan, Japanese whaler and whistleblower; Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan

WILLACY: We meet in one of Tokyo's sterile business hotell, he tells me to call him Kujira-san,Japanese for Mr Whale. He's a former crewman onboard Japan's whaling fleet flagship - the Nisshin Maru. Kujira-san tells me that what he's about to reveal could get him killed, his former shipmates don't tolerate those who break the code of silence. We agreed to mask his voice...

KUJIRA TSAN: First, when the ship returns to Japan and arrives in the port, a transport truck is waiting. The crewmen will then pack the whale meat they stole into a cardboard box. One person carried off five to six-hundred kilograms.

WILLACY: He claims some crewman make a fortune from reselling the meat.These are explosive allegations which if true undermine much of Japan's claim that its whaling program is centred on scientific research.

They're backed by another man, T-san, who has more than 30 years experience onboard whaling ships.

TSAN: It happened on the container on the bridge. I had to check the temperature everyday and when I went in there, there was a staff member from the Institute of Cetacean Research packing something. So I yelled "what are you doing?". He then tried to hide the package by spreading his arms out. It was red meat from the tail. That is the highest quality whale meat.

WILLACY: The Institute of Cetacean Research is the body in charge of Japan's scientific research program and what both whaling whistleblowers are alleging is serious corruption inside this program.

Junichi Sato works for Greenpeace Japan he and a colleague Toru Suzuki tracked the smuggled whale meat intercepting one box containing 23 kilograms of prime cuts

They showed the Japanese media, then took it to prosecutors who promised to investigate the alleged theft of whale meat by crew members. But a month later the two Greenpeace activists were arrested and charged with stealing.

Junichi Sato, and his colleague Toru Suzuki who are now known as the Tokyo Two appear at the final day of their trial, they face up to 10 years in jail as well as the rage of many of their compatriots.

SATO: We get a lot of phone calls from people who support whaling who say you are not Japanese, you are betraying, you have to go to jail now and die, something like that.

WILLACY: These are the Japanese who would like to see the Tokyo Two pay for supposedly betraying their nation...

At this protest in Tokyo, ultra-nationalists accuse the west of humiliating Japan on the issue of whaling.

Western white people also harvest resources from the sea, says demonstration leader Shuhei Nishimura. But they say the Japanese are the barbarians. This is racial discrimination he charges.

On the topic of the Tokyo Two, he's even more hardline.

NISHIMURA: Japan is a constitutional law-governed nation and I want them to get the death penalty he says. They should be punished to the maximum level under the law, and that's the Japanese people's wish.

WILLACY: In Japan, blowing the whistle on suspect practices inside the so-called scientific whaling program can mean being branded a traitor. And it could also mean going to jail.

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