Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
Orca Lulu's body contained PCB levels 100x above the safe limit. Image: SMASS

Toxic tides, troubled whales: the toll of chemical pollution

In last week's blog, we examined the challenges whales and dolphins face as they travel...
Group of orcas at surface

Breaking barriers for whales and dolphins at the Convention of Migratory Species

Many species of whales, dolphins and porpoises undertake long journeys, encountering human-made obstacles along the...

WDC in Japan – Part 1: Finding allies in Tokyo

At the end of May, I embarked on an incredible journey to Japan on behalf...
Amazon river dolphins leaping

The state of river dolphin conservation

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we partner with conservationists and communities fighting to save river...
Researchers in Southeast Alaska studying whale poo

We’re funding crucial research on whale poo to combat the climate crisis

The ocean is one of the lungs of our planet, and whales help it to...
Narwhal surfacing

The unicorns of the sea must be protected – CITES

The narwhal, is under threat. Often referred to as the unicorns of the sea, narwhals,...
Sperm whales

We’re pushing governments for action for our climate heroes – whales

The climate crisis is the greatest threat to all life on Earth. But there is...
Dolphins captured for captivity in Taiji. Image: Hans Peter Roth

Loved and killed – whales and dolphins in Japan

Protests and criticism from outside Japan in response to the slaughter of whales and dolphins...

Football, Corruption and the Whales

Two issues have recently conflated in my thinking.

Firstly an article in the Japan Times[1] which spoke of Japan’s current attempts to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and secondly, the recent and public accusations of corruption against the management of FIFA, football’s world governing body.

So why should two such seemingly different subjects come together for me at this time?

Bear with me, hopefully, this will make sense by the time you get to the end.

Some years ago the International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting was taking place in Aberdeen in the UK.

Now Aberdeen is a beautiful city when the sun shines but it has a slightly different demeanor when the rain is falling, – so says a good friend of mine who was born in that fair city. Luckily in June 1996 the sun was shining and the IWC delegates had reverted to short-sleeve order to try and survive the stifling heat of being confined indoors from morning to late at night.

That same year, England were also playing host to the 1996 UEFA European Football Championships at exactly the same time as the Aberdeen Conference centre was playing host to the distinguished IWC delegates. If I remember correctly, I had found myself as part of the UK delegation as an advisor and general ‘gofor’ for the team.

During one one very late afternoon/early evening tortious session something odd began to happen; I believe Japan was once again trying to explain why the whaling moratorium was causing ‘so much suffering’ for the people of Japan’s commercial whaling coastal fleet.

Delegates were once again, diplomatically, listening, despite all knowing that these vessels were making money for their companies because they were still being allowed to kill hundreds of small whales a year, and in later years have been used as part of its north Pacific so-called ‘scientific’ whaling fleet – I should also point out that Japan presents roughly the same points most years within the IWC with a strategy of hoping that new delegates will not know of the previous discussions, and will offer to do a ‘deal’ on commercial whaling.

However, this time I had noticed that one of the other delegation’s leads (the country shall remain unnamed) was holding up a writing pad with some scribbled message to the Chairman of the session. Only the Chairman could hope to see what had been written, and after narrowing his eyes to read the board, he then nodded and, as quietly as they could, the signalling delegation stood up and left the room, leaving one sole deputised colleague to remain and listen to the Japanese explain (again) why selling whale meat around the country was not, in fact, commercial whaling as defined by the IWC.

A few minutes later another delegation held up a sign to the Chairman, and proceeded to also abandon one sole individual to the lecture.

When I pointed out this behaviour to the head of the UK delegation, a bemused colleague suggested that I also leave and see ‘what they were up to’.

Fin whaleDutifully I left the auditorium, but did not need to go far as I found the ‘escapees’ a few metres away, sat in the bar watching one of the qualifying games in the Euro championships.  I reported to the UK team who decided that I should be their representative in the now bigger ‘conference’ of parties that was taking place in the bar, just in case they did start discussing ‘shop’. The rest of the bemused UK delegation, as hosts for that’s year’s IWC, were expected to remain in the meeting

Despite trying to be quiet, the ‘sub meeting’ had attracted more delegates to join them, including some who one might have thought would have been a little more dutiful in listening to Japan, especially as Japan had been instrumental in ‘persuading’ them to attend the IWC in the first place. Of course I am referring to the host of nations that have joined the IWC after visits by Japan and their ‘diplomatic attempts’ to get them to support their whaling position.

And that’s where the recent FIFA stories and what has been going on in the IWC comes together.

Of course, the recent FIFA corruption stories reminded me of the various allegations of corruption within some delegations at the IWC.

In 2010, in this very blog, I had written about corruption allegations at the IWC, saying that …if these accusations were made at something like the world cup, there would be a global outcry’[2].

Based on recent events, I guess I may have been right.

But, back to the point I am trying to make. As I have said, there have been allegations of corruption in the way some countries engage with the IWC for many years.

And just as the British press have been vilified in recent years for pointing out problems at FIFA, some of the pro-whalers have been quick to condemn the UK press for highlighting problems in the way it conducts investigations when it comes to whaling policy.

The most recent accusations came as recently as 2010 when the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper ran an article in which it had managed to get a number of Japanese client states to admit that they were taking monies indirectly from Japan[3].

The Sunday Times reported that various client states had received cash from Houston based “Japan Tours and Travel Inc.” (JTT). JTT was linked to a Houston resident, Hideuki “Harry” Wakasa. ‘Wakasa was an agent for the Japan Whaling Association which is financed directly by the Japanese Fisheries Agency and the Overseas fisheries co-operation Foundation, an agency sponsored by the Agriculture Ministry.

This was just the most recent commentary after years of concern at the way Japan was using its overseas development aid and fisheries aid in recruiting nations to support it at the IWC. Facing increased criticism, the IWC sought to clean up some of the most blatant abuses. The IWC responded with a Resolution, initiated by the UK delegation, entitled in the IWC’s way, as IWC/63/8/rev2 [4] on ‘improving the effectiveness of operations within the IWC’, which includes the requirement that, 

‘Payment shall be by bank transfer from an account belonging to the Contracting Government or to a state institution of that Government.’

This was a good first step, but accusations had surfaced a lot earlier than the Sunday Times article. The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported in 1999[5] that Hiroaki Kameya, the vice minister for fisheries, was on a global trip to visit African and Caribbean nations which had, in Kameya’s words, understood the whaling issue.

The report went onto report vice minister Kameya as saying that his mission was, “…to increase the number of nations working in the International Whaling Commission and the World Trade Organisation”.

The Guardian went onto note that Mr Kameya added,

‘We would like to utilise overseas development aid as a practical means to promote nations to join, expanding grant-aid towards non-member countries which support Japan’s claim.’

WDC highlighted the issue of vote buying in 1999[6] and 2001[7] but Japan initially continued to argue it was not engaged in any form of corruption of democracy. Joji Morishita, the then deputy director of the Japanese Far Seas Fisheries Division, told The Observer at the time‘No condition has ever been put on aid’. 

Joji Morishita is now Japan’s commissioner to the IWC and has been elected vice-chair of the IWC.

However, in the same year, the maybe less diplomatic Masayuki Komatsu, who had previously served as head of Japan’s Fisheries Agency’s International Affairs Division as well as a representative of Japan at the IWC, gave an interview to the Australian ABC network in 2001[8],

‘Japan does not have a military power, unlike the US and Australia. You may dispatch your, you know, military power to East Timor, that is not the case of Japan. Japanese means are simply diplomatic communication and ODAs. So in order to get appreciation over Japan’s position, of course, you know that is natural that we must resort on those two major tools, so I think there is nothing wrong.’

Japanese whalingIn the same interview and others[9], the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark was quoted in reaction to Japan’s admission, as saying,

‘It is just outrageous to use aid money to buy votes on this issue, indeed on any issue, internationally development aid is supposed to be for development not for procuring a vote for purposes like this.’

Since then, there have been a number of reports and academic papers that has looked at Japan’s overseas aid and its whaling policy, which have concluded that Japan is using its aid budget to support its whaling policy at the IWC.

Like many nations Japan had, especially post 1960, established a programme of using ODA to build its international reputation.

The Japanese ODA Blue Book[10] states

‘The establishment of the “rule of law” in the international community is crucial for stabilizing relations among countries, achieving peaceful settlement of disputes, and advancing good governance within countries’

However, this call for the “rule of law” should be contrasted with Japan’s use of special permit whaling at the IWC to avoid compliance with the IWC Moratorium.

Whilst the JODA Charter calls for ‘…non-intervention in domestic matters’, a 2012 review of aid to Antigua and Barbuda calls for,

‘Books and videos on nature protection and resource utilization in Japan could be useful, offering to NGOs wishing to use the facility for community activities or marine resource conservation activities, through the grassroots grant aid scheme. By so doing, the facility could be used to promulgate the Japanese ideas or philosophy on sustainable use of natural resources and conservation’

The report[11], goes onto say at 4.4 Concept of the Diplomatic Effect,

‘When selecting countries for grant aid project for fisheries, the relationship to Japan’s fishery has naturally been taken into consideration. Viewed from the characteristics or the historical background of the scheme, to evaluate the overall effect of the scheme it is necessary to grasp not only the development effect but also the diplomatic effect.

Though the recent review of the ODA Evaluation Guidelines by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, evaluation of the diplomatic effect was added to as a new point. And this report analyses diplomatic goals of the grant aid for fisheries and suggests the three steps below to evaluate its diplomatic effect.

1)    Diplomatic goals to be evaluated

The evaluation team analyses that the diplomatic goals of the grant aid scheme for fisheries have two aspects:

i)               Specific goals to the scheme, and

ii)             General goals targeting country and region (related to the fishery and environment fields)’

At page 26 of the report the authors, the Nomura Research Institute, Ltd, detail diplomatic goals as,

The report is therefore explicit that Japan should be expecting a solid diplomatic outcome of its aid, specifically,

‘Developing mutual understanding concerning sustainable use of resources, without undue emphasis on conservation…’ [Emphasis added]

‘Supporting Japan’s position on issues such as the use of marine resources, etc. in the international arena…’

This express concern to avoid ‘undue emphasis on conservation’ is self-evident at IWC meetings.

This makes nonsense of Japan’s public statements when parts of the Japanese government continuing to argue that such linkages do not exist. Whilst Japan’s written records show that such ‘diplomatic’ payback is expected.

And why should we be concerned about Japan’s approach at the IWC? Well apart from the whaling issue, of which I feel very strongly, it would appear that Japan could be using these same strategies in the wider debate over a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

In his opinion piece in the Japan Times, Thakur argues that Japan should be willing to abstain on nuclear proliferation and security issues amongst others, in a strategy of ‘nonparticipation’. This is the very strategy that Japan has been using at the IWC when it refuses to engage in any conservation proposals. Japan is very clear that it is only interested in killing whales and not furthering conservation, because its priorities are always set, ‘without undue emphasis on conservation’.


Japan and the United Nations Security Council – the real ‘jewel in the crown’

What emerges in studying Japan’s activities at the UN is a Japanese foreign policy that has, as one of its foci, achieving UN Security Council Reform[12]; specifically Japan’s attempts to secure for itself a permanent Security Council seat[13].

The Japanese observer, Morikawa (2009)[14] notes that, ‘From the early 1990s, Japan began to pursue more actively a role as a political superpower in the post Cold War period’.

What had begun at the signing of the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1951[15] has grown into a Japanese foreign policy that includes aid to ex-Soviet states such as Mongolia (now a supporter of Japan at the IWC). Whilst the primacy of its early foreign policy was focused on securing Japan’s re-acceptance into the global sphere after its actions during the run up to, and during the Second World War, and securing access to scarce raw materials, – has now grown into a foreign policy tool for achieving diplomatic objectives.

Japan has been carrying out an almost constant campaign to win election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, attaining the position some 16 times up until its last seat in 2010[16]. These have been seen by the MOFA as a stepping-stone to their ultimate objective, a permanent seat.

The greatest opposition to Japan’s drive to achieve the UN seat is most probably coming from China who still holds Japan responsible for its colonial and wartime behaviour. Japan’s recent history is still a very present issue for many other nations, especially within Asia. ‘In this situation actively recruiting the support of developing world countries that make up the majority of the UN’s membership, especially those that represent large blocs of votes from Africa and the South Pacific, have been vital for Japan’s campaigns… In the post Cold War age, Japan has also been taking initiatives towards previous Eastern bloc nations such as Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.’ (Morikawa, 2009)[17]

Thus Japan’s strategic outreach has always, it would appear, been to garner votes within the UN as part of its overseas aid programmes. Whilst Japan’s campaign at the UN may have been the primary goal, a by-product of this has been Japan’s demands for support at wildlife fora such as the IWC.

Is Japanese Foreign Aid Policy succeeding?

Japanese whalingDippel (2014)[18] uses a triple-difference identification strategy that relates changes in bilateral aid to within-recipient variation in IWC voting-bloc affiliation interacted with cross-sectional variation in donors’ bloc affiliation and concludes that “In the specific context studied here, only Japan appears to increase its aid in order to entice countries to vote for them”.

Kuziemko and Werker (2006)[19], investigating the potential for vote-buying in the United Nations, state, ‘the results of this paper are consistent with previous empirical studies that demonstrate a political component to the allocation of foreign aid….

Strand and Truman (2009)[20] conclude that

‘…the results suggest that after adjusting for random effects at the country level, the coefficient for IWC microstates was positive and statistically significant. At the same time, the coefficient for IWC membership for non-microstates is small and fails to achieve significance. Taken together, these results suggest that microstate members in the IWC received more real Japanese aid, on average, in comparison to non-microstate IWC members and other recipients that are not members of the IWC. This finding lends support to the proposition that Japanese ODA concentrates in IWC microstates because aid officials expect that microstates are economically vulnerable and are therefore open to aid inducements to vote against the moratorium’

Interestingly. Strand and Truman (2009) suggest that Japan is using aid to reward consistency in voting rather than targeting new members. This of course assumes that Japan has not targeted these same countries prior to joining the IWC through other mechanisms, i.e. in a recruitment drive. Strand and Truman also looked to see if there was correlation between aid decreases by non-whaling states[21] that were also aid donors, that created a net loss for the recipient countries in taking Japanese ODA for whaling support, but they found that whilst ‘Japan rewards prior voting similarity and membership with disbursements of ODA in the present’, they found,

‘Unlike Japan, then, these four donors did not systematically focus their ODA programs on IWC members’, and that the study ‘suggests that IWC members who vote with Japan do not experience any corresponding loss in ODA disbursements from other IWC members that are aid donors’

Interesting Strand and Truman (2009) argue that,

‘Beyond support for whaling, the results do not suggest a clear link between ODA disbursements’.

Which suggests that maybe only  the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries is benefitting from the activities of its conditional ODA rather than any additional benefit accruing to the Japanese people as a whole, and that this is evidence of a,

‘…Certain fragmentation and inchoateness in the formulation of ODA policy and Japan‘s national economic interests.’

So whilst the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries may be able to argue domestically that its approach of using aid in the IWC is bringing wider benefits, the Japanese Foreign Ministry may not reap the benefit they want in the UN, and indeed, the very abuse of its position in the IWC may come back to haunt Japan in its bigger campaign at the UN.

Because, just as the world is reacting to the unfolding abuses alleged within the seemingly unaccountable FIFA, who can trust an industry that is seemingly setting the goals for a government, that then undermines international law just to be able to kill whales for an ideal, – and that ideal being that a few people can make money from the suffering of sentient creatures?

It would be shame if a single dying practice means that many in the world believe that Japan continues to demonstrate that it cannot be trusted to be welcomed into the highest echelons of the world’s governance body because of the arrogant greed of a few people in a now unnecessary industry.

So, hopefully if you have read this far, you can see why news of FIFA’s turmoil, created a sudden conflated thought with the work that we do trying to illustrate the inconsistencies of the whalers’ position at the IWC.

Maybe Japan, and those it has been ‘encouraging in the IWC’ ought to be looking closely at what is happening at FIFA and imagining what happens when the world starts looking more closely at their behaviour, – which they surely will, as Japan steps up its game for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Oh, and who won Euro 96?

Well Germany did, and most of us were especially pleased as this was the first time that the reunified German nation had won something with a unified team.

Of course, since then they could give a few of us others a chance now and again 🙂


References quoted above if you want to read more on this topic

[5] See Brown, P. (1999). ‘Japan Admits Using Aid to Build Pro-Whaling Vote.’ Guardian (November 11) Available at:
[6] Kirby, A., ‘Japan accused of buying whaling votes’, BBC News (20 May). Available at:

[7] Brown, A. (2001) Save the whales? Not if Japan’s bribes pay off (May 13)

Available at:

[8] ABC (18th July, 2001) Available at:
[9] New Zealand Herald (July 19 2001) Available at:
[10] Japanese Diplomatic Blue Book (2013) Available at:
[12] Japan’s Diplomatic Blue Book (2013), ‘Japan’s Foreign Policy by Region’, page 11. Available at: page 20 ‘Sub-Sahara Africa.

[13] The Japan News, by the Yomiuri Shimbun, (2014) Japan should make strategic efforts to become permanent UNSC member’ (27 September) Available at:

[14] Supra 5, ‘Getting out the Vote’ page 80
[15] Came into effect on 28 April 1952. Available at:
[17] Supra 5 pages 80-81
[18] Dippel, C. (2014) Foreign Aid and Voting in International Organizations:Evidence from the IWC, Working Paper. Available at:
[19] Kuziemko, I. and E. Werker (2006). How much is a Seat on the Security Council Worth? Foreign Aid and Bribery at the United Nations. Journal of Political Economy 114(5), 905–930. Available at:
[20] Strand, J. and J. Truman (2009). Japanese Foreign Aid to Microstates and Voting in the International Whaling Commission: Evidence from Latin America and the Caribbean. University of Nevada Las Vegas Available at:…/Program_2009.pdf
[21] New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States were selected