Archive for Japan
www.themercury.com.au 10th March 2013
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have yet again forced the Japanese whaling fleet to fall well short of their maximum quota for whale carcasses. The fleet recently returned to port with 75 whales on board compared to the 800+ it could have culled. Despite the Australian government lodging a complaint at the International Court of Justice about Japan’s continued whaling programme, citing the country’s failure to uphold its international obligations, Japan continues to hunt whales. Sea Shepherd’s fleet has grown recently and now consists of four ships. This has allowed the conservation group to be more direct in their protests. However, growing aggression has led to claims of violence and harassment on both sides. In 2010, one of Sea Shepherd’s boats, The Ady Gil (formerly of Earth Race), was almost sunk by a Japanese whaling ship.
Japanese national broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel have caught a giant squid swimming in its natural environment on camera for the first time. The footage will be shown for the finale of the channel’s Curiosity series in an episode called ‘Monster Squid: The Giant is Real’. The squid was discovered by a team of three Japanese scientists in a submersible in 2,066 feet of water, 9.3 miles (15 kilometres) east of Chichi Island, a small archipelago about 150 miles (241.4 kilometers) north of Iwo Jima, according to gizmodo.com.The mission leader Tsunemi Kubodera reported: “It was shining and so beautiful. I was so thrilled when I saw it first hand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data. Researchers around the world have tried to film giant squid in their natural habitats, but all attempts were in vain before.” The key to the team’s success, according to firstpost.com, was the use of near-infrared light, invisible to the eyes of both squids and humans. A one metre piece of squid was used as bait and the team dove 100 times before managing to film the specimen.
www.bbc.co.uk 5th January 2013
A new record has been set for the sale of a single Bluefin Tuna at the first sale of the year of Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. The tuna, weighing in at 222kg, was sold to a sushi restaurant owner by the name of Kiyoshi Kimura for 155m yen ($1.7m; £1.05m). The fish was 45kg lighter than last year’s record, which sold for 56m yen. The sale comes just before the release of new data from the Pew Environmental Group on Monday, which is expected ‘to show a continued decline in Pacific bluefin stocks’. Japan consumes over half of the world’s Bluefin Tuna catch.
www.bbc.co.uk 19th August 2012
A row has erupted between China and Japan over the arrest of a group of 14 Chinese protestors who set foot on the disputed islands known as Senkaku In Japan and Diaoyu in China. It is the first time non-Japanese nationals have set foot on the islands, which are owned by Japan, since 2004. The islands are largely uninhabited but are close to strategically important shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds, and are believed to contain oil deposits. The activists arrived by boat and plane and their arrest immediately caused the Chinese government to call for their arrest. Chinese protestors also gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing. Shortly afterwards, 150 Japanese protestors also embarked for the islands but were prevented from landing by Japanese coastguard. Ten of the group swam ashore though and are now being questioned by police. Tensions have risen before when a Chinese trawler was apprehended by Japanese coastguard in September 2010 after it rammed two Japanese vessels. As Sino-Japanese relations plummeted though, the Japanese dropped charges.
www.bbc.co.uk 6th April 2012
A Japanese shrimping vessel that was washed to sea during the disastrous tsunami of March 2011 has been sunk in 9,000 ft of water by the United States Coastguard off the coast of Alaska. The Ryou-Un Maru, which was without power or lights, was deemed a hazard to other vessels and sunk using a cannon that punctured holes in the ship’s sides. The question many people have asked is why the Ryou-Un was not salvaged. In fact, the coastguard had already contacted the Japanese government to ask them whether they were interested in salvage. The reply was negative. Then, the coastguard had agreed to hold off taking action as a Canadian fishing vessel claimed salvage rights. When the larger Japanese ship proved difficult to tow though, the US authorities stepped in. Another question worrying conservationists is the 7,500 litres of diesel fuel that were not removed prior to the sinking. According to Petty Officer David Mosley the fuel ‘should very quickly dissipate in the ocean.’ The Ryou-Un is believed to be the vanguard of a large debris field from Japan that is making its way to the west coast of North America on North Pacific currents.
Japanese agricultural officials have warned that more than 500 cattle slaughtered for Japanese supermarkets have been infected by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster several months ago. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was severely damaged in the tsunami of March this year, which devastated the Japanese coastline after an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale struck off the nation’s coast. Beef has now joined a wide variety of foodstuffs that have tested positive for radioactive cesium including spinach, tea, milk and fish. Officials blame the cattle meat contamination on hay left outside during the nuclear fallout. This hay has been found as far away from the plant as 85 miles implying the fallout was wider than initially thought. Attention now turns to the Japanese government who have been unwilling to extend the ban on food exports from just a 12 miles radius of the plant. The reason behind this decision was to reduce the amount of people put out of work and also the amount of compensation claims levelled against Tokyo Electric Power, the operating company of Fukushima. With the amount of contamination reports on the rise though, the government have now banned meat shipments from the entire of the Fukushima prefecture, an area of 5700 square miles. Farmers from the area still claim they are being kept out of the loop and have had no information from the government on how to tackle the problem.
www.bbc.co.uk 14th July 2011
The final day of the 63rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Jersey came close to chaos as pro-whaling countries walked out. Japan, Iceland, and several others left the room when 14 Latin American countries, known as the Buenos Aires Bloc, tried to force a vote on the creation of a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic. The latest drama to hit the IWC brought criticism from environmental groups who have claimed that issues of whale conservation were neglected. A compromise was finally made with delegates told to come to some sort of agreement over the coming year, or the next IWC annual meeting will begin with a vote on the South Atlantic whale sanctuary. When asked about the walkout, Japan’s deputy commissioner Joji Morishita said
“this was not a hostile move to the Latin American countries – our effort is to try to save this organisation, and it turned out ok.” This year’s meeting did have some good news however with France, Italy, and some non-governmental organisations pledging £80,000 for the research of small cetaceans such as the critically endangered Mexican vaquita.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is best known for its work protecting whales from Japanese whaling fleets but it is now in the Mediterranean helping raise awareness for unsustainable tuna fishing. But when one of their vessels approached a group of Tunisian fishing vessels some 70 miles off the Libyan coast in order to inspect their floating tuna cages, the environmentalists soon found themselves under attack by defensive fisherman throwing metal debris at their boat. Nobody was hurt in the encounter but the Sea Shepherd dinghy was forced to return to its mothership ‘The Steve Irwin’. The attacks continued as one purse-seine fishing vessel pulled up along the mother ship and continued to hurl metal pieces at the crew on board. The Sea Shepherd retaliated by throwing back bottles of rancid butter forcing the fishing vessel to retreat. The Tunisian vessels then radioed the French Navy and claimed that Sea Shepherd divers were attempting to cut their nets, a claim denied by the conservationists although they admit they have divers on standby as two of the of the Tunisian vessels are not allowed to be fishing according to a list complied by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Nevertheless, a French jet flew low over the scene several times to document the situation. Bluefin Tuna are fetching increasingly extravagant prices, particularly in Japan, as numbers decline. They are usually ‘flash-frozen’ and sold in Japanese fish markets where a large specimen can fetch up to £250,000. Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson has promised to stay with the Tunisian vessels until an ICCAT inspector can be found.
Below are a series of photographs published in the L.A. Times on the devastation wrought by the tsunami in Japan this past March. Triggered from an earthquake measuring 9.1 on the Richter Scale, the world watched horrified as helicopter reporters filmed a series of tidal waves batter the Japanese North Eastern coastline. LMV was filming in Long Beach, California, at the time and even there warnings were sounded to stay away from the water. When we arrived in Hawaii a few days afterwards, there were fears of radiation clouds from the damaged Japanese reactors and tidal surges from the earthquake had left hotels damaged and large pieces of marine debris on the coastline. Below are a small selection of the 53 harrowing pictures to be found on the L.A. Times website.
www.nationalgeographic.com 20th May 2011
The high prices of oil around the world may benefit the adoption of more renewable fuels for transport. New tests by the US Department of Defence have shown that Hydrotreated Renewable Jet (HRJ) fuel, which is kerosene derived from natural sources such as plants or animal fat, is a viable alternative to normal fossil fuels. ASTM International, the standard-setting body of the aviation, is now poised to vote on the certification of HRJ. Successful tests by the US Airforce have seen jets fly at supersonic speeds using a 50:50 composite of renewable and petroleum based fuels. The civil unrest in the Middle East and Northern Africa has helped bump up oil prices, but aviation fuel is harder hit than some other types. During such shortages, refineries cut production of aviation fuel in favour or more profitable products such as diesel. Also, the tsunami and earthquake in Japan caused outages across three refineries further reducing the amount of aviation fuel on the market. The result is a 50% increase in prices over last year (a 30% increase from the beginning of 2011 alone). As fuel takes up the largest expenditure for an airline, the inevitable knock-on effect is falling profits or even losses. Although other biofuels have been put forward to replace regular petroleum fuels, none have succeeded as they either rely on fossil fuels to power the production process or are too energy intensive. HRJ is different however as it relies upon hydrogen to turn natural materials into fuel. The diversity of the feedstock is also hugely beneficial.
www.bbc.co.uk 21st April 2011
Due to the continued instability of the Fukushima nuclear plant, the Japanese government has brought into effect a 20km exclusion zone around the site. Although an evacuation zone has been in effect since the 9.0 earthquake hit the Japanese coast on the 11th March, it has now been made officially illegal to enter. There will, however, be a brief window for the 80,000 former residents to collect belongings. There are also believed to be as many as 60 families still living in the exclusion zone, although nobody seems to be sure where. If they do not leave, they could face the penalty of around £730 or 30 days detainment by the police. Most of the evacuees are currently living in temporary shelter in local sports halls and gymnasiums. With Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Fukushima plant operator, saying that they aim to bring the plant to a cool shutdown state within 9 months, these stranded citizens may have a long wait to return home.
www.guardian.co.uk 4th April 2011
In an unprecedented breach of safety and environmental standards, the operating company of the damaged Japanese nuclear plant at Fukushima has announced its intention to release 11,500 tonnes of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. The decision was made in order to make storage space for more highly radioactive water that has been used in the cooling of the nuclear reactor. The Japanese government has justified its permission for the action as a lesser of two evils, despite waters near the plant already measuring radiation levels 4,000 times the legal standard. By releasing the water, officials believe that workers can concentrate on repairing far more severe leaks. The total amount of radioactive water being dumped is 100 times the legal limit and the process may begin as early as tomorrow (Tuesday). The plant operator, Tokyo Electric, has a history of safety failures that were revealed following the 9.0 scale earthquake in March.
www.guardian.co.uk 18th February 2011
In a surprising move, the Japanese government has recalled its whaling fleet in the Antarctic following confrontation with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The fleet was meant to stay out until the middle of March but the Japanese agriculture minister, Michihiko Kano, stated that the ships would be returning home ”to ensure the safety of lives, assets and our ships.” Sea Shepherd has made the annual voyage to the Antarctic with a selection of boats with which to harass the whaling fleet. Last year, one of the organisation’s boats, the Ady Gil, was rammed by one of the whaling boats but nobody was hurt. This year, increased resources allowed the conservationists to use a helicopter as well. Although the Japanese government has condemned Sea Shepherd as a terrorist organisation, the whaling industry in the country is not fairing well. Accusations of routine corruption and international pressure, combined with a lack of consumer interest (whale meat is sold on the open market despite the authorities claiming the whales are killed for scientific reasons), has battered the industry. Australia, one of the leading critics of Japan’s whaling practices, has welcomed the early return of the fleet. In 2010, it submitted a formal complaint with the International Court of Justice in the Hague to get the hunts banned. A decision is expected in 2013.
www.bbc.co.uk 11th December 2010
A compromise has been reached at the climate summit in Cancun. A draft paper drawn up by the hosts of the summit, Mexico, found unexpected support among the countries that have caused the biggest problems in finding a successor to the Kyoto treaty, namely China, Japan, and the USA. As the spokespeople of each of these three stood up to endorse the paper, which states that carbon reductions are necessary and also establishes a fund to help poorer countries in their fight against the effects of global warming, other delegates cheered. The Green Climate Fund will spend $100 billion each year on developing low-carbon technologies in poorer nations as well as investing in infrastructure related to tackling the effects of climate change, such as flooding. Also in the paper are parameters to tackle deforestation. However, the deal is a lot less than many hoped for. Although a step up from the disastrous Copenhagen summit last year, it is unsure whether the Cancun deal will be legally binding. Tara Rao, senior policy adviser with WWF, is optimistic however. “There’s enough in it that we can work towards next year’s meeting in South Africa to get a legally binding agreement there,” she said. Bolivia was the most outspoken critic of the deal, with the President reportedly stating the agreement was ‘ecocide and genocide’. The Bolivian delegate has claimed that the deal will still amount to a rise in global temperatures of over 4 degrees C.
e360.yale.edu 18th November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘France, Spain, and other Mediterranean countries have forced the European Union to back off from supporting an ambitious plan to protect the endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna, a fish whose numbers in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean dropped 60 percent from 1997 to 2007 because of overfishing. As international fisheries talks opened in Paris, the EU aborted plans to push for a 50-percent reduction in the annual quota of 13,500 metric tons in the Mediterranean, an aggressive target based on input from marine scientists. The officials will instead put more weight on the interests of local fishermen. While EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said it is not a position she agrees with, her commission “will respect its obligations as a negotiator on behalf of the European Union.” Europe’s reversal comes as officials from 48 nations gather for talks on setting quotas that protect the bluefin tuna, a fish whose meat is prized for use in sushi. Earlier this year, Japan led efforts to defeat a ban on the international trade of bluefin tuna during a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).’
www.msnbc.com 2nd November 2010
The annual dolphin slaughter in the quiet Japanese village of Taiji was slightly different this year. Following the release of the Oscar-winning documentary ‘The Cove’ last year, the event has attracted world-wide media attention as well as numerous conservationist groups. The attention was such that Taiji’s town council agreed to hold a conference on the subject. In Tokyo, over 400km away, the government’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku stated that he hoped the meeting would promote understanding in an ancient Japanese tradition. However, the two-hour meeting has not gone well. The Japanese fisherman claim that western societies kill other animals for food while the protestors highlight the barbarity of dolphin-killing practices as well as the high toxin levels in dolphin meat. Furthermore, Ric O’Barry, the central character of ‘The Cove’, threatened to boycott the talks due to severe media restrictions. In the end Mr O’Barry did not have to boycott as he was escorted from the area by policemen following comments about the cruelty of dolphin training (Mr O’Barry was the trainer of the original Flipper dolphins). Town Council chief Katsutoshi Mihara said to the conservationists: “It’s not right for you to force your values on us.” Every year Taiji, with a small population of 3,500, slaughter 2,000 dolphins, around 10% of the country’s total.
www.independent.co.uk 30th October 2010
Quoted from source:
‘A historic deal to halt the mass extinction of species was finally agreed last night in what conservationists see as the most important international treaty aimed at preventing the collapse of the world’s wildlife. Delegates from more than 190 countries meeting in Nagoya, Japan, agreed at the 11th hour on an ambitious conservation programme to protect global biodiversity and the natural habitats that support the most threatened animals and plants. After 18 years of debate, two weeks of talks, and tense, last-minute bargaining, the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity agreed on 20 key “strategic goals” to be implemented by 2020 that should help to end the current mass extinction of species.’
Click here for more details.
e360.yale.edu 25th October 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Mazda will introduce a subcompact gas-powered vehicle in Japan next year that gets 70.5 miles per gallon, a model automakers say shows that combustion-powered cars can deliver fuel efficiency similar to hybrid vehicles. With a more efficient engine and transmission, and a frame and suspension system produced with lighter, high-tensile steel, the new Demio (called the Mazda 2 outside of Japan) is 30 percent more fuel efficient than similar models now produced by Mazda. Models produced for the U.S. market will have a lower fuel economy rating because of different manufacturing requirements, but the vehicle will still use the same amount of fuel as a Toyota Prius, without the added costs of an electric motor and accompanying battery. The Demio represents a new class of gas-powered vehicles that automakers say can cut fuel consumption globally even more quickly than hybrids or electric vehicles since changes to the engines tend to be less expensive and can be implemented rapidly. Ford recently announced innovations that will improve the fuel economy of its Focus model by 17 percent, to about 40 miles per gallon.’
www.bbc.co.uk 25th October 2010
Quoted from source:
‘BP has said it will sell its interests in four Gulf of Mexico oil fields to Japan’s Marubeni as part of its moves to pay for the oil spill there. The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to raise $650m (£413m). BP is in the process of selling assets worth up to $30bn to meet clean-up and compensation costs. Last week, the company announced it would sell business interests in Vietnam and Venezuela for $1.8bn. BP has owned the assets in the four fields for less than a year. It bought them from Devon Energy alongside other assets in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Azerbaijan. Andy Hopwood, a BP executive, said: “When BP acquired Devon’s Gulf of Mexico assets, it was clear that these four fields did not fit well with the rest of our business in the region.” A company statement added that BP’s other interests in the Gulf of Mexico would not be affected by the sale – which is expected to be completed in early 2011 – and that the company remained both the largest producer of oil and gas in the region as well as being the largest holder of leases. BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, killing 11 workers, and ultimately leaking an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. The well was finally permanently sealed on 19 September. The total bill for compensating victims currently stands at about $11.2bn (£7bn).’
www.independent.co.uk 20th October 2010
The UK has topped a recent survey by Australia’s Climate Institute thinktank that lists countries on the value of their incentives to cut pollution from electricity generation. The Vivid Economics report estimate that the UK’s efforts were equivalent to 29.30 US dollars per tonne of CO2. Surprisingly, China came in second with $14.20 per tonne due to their title as the world’s leader in clean energy investment. The USA came next with $5.10, then Japan at $3.10, Australia $1.70, and finally just 70 US cents per tonne for South Korea. The six countries make up about half of global carbon emissions. The great success in the list is China, who has been long considered as a heavy polluter. Erwin Jackson, director of the Climate Institute, said that the country’s investment in clean energy stood at US$35billion in 2009 alone compared to $18bill. in the USA and $11bill. in the UK. This figure is expected to increase tenfold over the next decade. Subsidies and the closure of dirty coal plants are all being used in an attempt to produce 15% of China’s energy by 2020. However, the report also warned that none of the countries in the list were in line to meet global reduction targets set at the Copenhagen Summit last year, with Japan lagging furthest behind ‘in relative terms’. Australia, as the world’s worst per capita polluter due to its heavy reliance on coal, is also far off target.
www.independent.co.uk 15th October 2010
A multi-national team made up of scientists from Japan, New Zealand, and Scotland have discovered several new species in one of the deepest places on the planet. The Peru-Chile trench more than 8000 metres deep and previously thought to be devoid of fish life. The research team used deep-sea imaging technology to take 6000 photographs between 4500 and 8000m in depth. Among the new species was a new type of snailfish called a Liparid living at a depth of 7000m. Large gatherings of Cusk Eels and crustacean scavengers were also recorded for the first time at this depth. The research is the 7th expedition undertaken by a collaborative project (HADEEP) by the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab and the University of Tokyo’s Ocean Research Institute, supported by New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research (NIWA).
www.independent.co.uk 3rd October 2010
Initial results from new research by the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project has calculated that the economic loss of biodiversity through deforestation alone costs the global economy £2.8 ($4.5) trillion a year. This equates to roughly $650 for every person on the planet. The research is ground-breaking in that it is the first study to calculate the economic potential of the world’s environment in an attempt to encourage governments and businesses to act on conservation. A former banker Pavan Sukhdev has been hired to head the study. Other statistics include the $320 billion worth of genetic resources used by the pharmaceutical industry. The results of the report coincide with the Convention of Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan. Headed by the UK government and Brazil, and supported by the UN and the World Bank, biodiversity has been pushed into the diplomatic agenda. Britain and Brazil hope that the convention of the 18th October will produce a treaty that ‘would ensure that regions rich in natural resources, including South America, Asia and Africa, receive the benefits enjoyed by developed countries.’ With a quarter of the world’s original biodiversity already extinct by the beginning of the millennium, and with a further 11% expected to disappear by 2050, an agreement is vital. By explaining the extent of the problem in economic terms, the Teeb hope to encourage governments to act.Speaking for the UK, Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, said: “We are losing species hand over fist. I would be negligent if I didn’t shout from the rooftops that we have a problem; the loss of species will cost us money and it will undermine our resilience in the face of scientific and medical research.”
www.guardian.co.uk 17th September 2010
The latest report from the Convention of Biological Diversity has warned that without prompt action, many of the world’s ecosystems are at the point of no return and will collapse putting the livelihoods of many people at risk, as well as the general running of our planet. The report, the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, cited the principal causers of ecosystem destruction as ‘habitat change, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species, and climate change.’ In an article written for the Guardian newspaper, the actor Edward Norton has outlined how the USA must take the lead in any action to protect the world’s biodiversity. Without the backing of the world’s most powerful country, the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit happening this October in Japan to tackle this problem may well be doomed to failure.
Edward Norton is a UN goodwill ambassador for biodiversity. Read the rest of his article here.
www.lemonde.fr 15th September 2010
A giant panda which had been lent to a Japanese Zoo in Kobe has died due to cardiac arrest at the age of 14 years old. Kou Kou, or Long Long as he was better known in China, died last Thursday and Chinese officials are demanding the body to be preserved so their own specialists can examine the corpse for foul play. It has been suggested that Kou Kou may have passed away due to an overdose of sedatives. The event may further strain Chino-Japanese relations after Japan arrested several Chinese fisherman not long ago. Just prior to Kou Kou’s death, a sperm sample was extracted in the hope that his mate may be artificially inseminated.
There are only 1600 known Giant Panda’s in the world with a further 300 in captivity. They are notoriously difficult breeders in captivity however so a program of artificial insemination has been introduced in an attempt to produce more offspring.
Sources: ourworld.unu.edu (United Nations University) 10th September 2010
For the first time in history the population of Japan’s capital city Tokyo is consuming more meat than seafood. The dramatic shift highlights the increasing ‘Westernisation’ of diets in Southeast and East Asia. In 1950 the average resident of Tokyo ate around 5 grams of meat per day compared to 90 grams today. That is a 160% rise in beef consumption since 1970 and a 90% rise in pork consumption. The demand for meat has gone beyond Japan’s production capacity and the country is now a net importer of every type of meat. In 1960 the country was almost self-sufficient in meat. Japan currently has the second largest number of McDonalds in the world.
Meat production in the world is spiraling upwards with a new study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN stating that 30% of the worlds land-surface is now being used for livestock activities with 70% of this land created through deforestation. The demand for further pastoral land is such that 23 out of the 35 world’s biodiversity hotspots (as identified by Conservation International) are under pressure.
Two Greenpeace anti-whaling activists have been jailed in Japan today after being found guilty of theft and trespassing. Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki were arrested following attempts to expose embezzlement in Japan’s whaling industry. The two intercepted a 23kg box of whale meat, worth around £460, at a delivery depot in the city of Aomori in 2008. The meat was part of a larger amount that is routinely taken from whaling ships by their crew and sold for personal gain. The Institute of Cetacean Research, which organises the hunts, claim that the crew are allowed to take home meat as gifts for their families. Rather than pursuing the case put forward by the Tokyo Two, it was dropped in favour of arresting the activists. They were detained without charge for 23 days and interrogated while being strapped to chairs. There sentence was one year in prison suspended for three years.
Around 950 whales are slaughtered each year by Japanese whaling fleets in the name of scientific research.