My new hero: Hideki Moronuki

[Update 15 July 2010: There is identity confusion in this post. See my update.]

Photograph of Hideki Moronuki

Hideki Moronuki Minoru Morimoto (pictured) is the Japanese Fisheries Agency’s chief of whaling. While I’m reasonably sure I’m not in favour of whaling, and certainly not if people are fibbing about its true purpose, you’ve got to admire his ballsy, direct language.

In a lengthy opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald last Monday, Moronuki Morimoto defends Japan’s “scientific whaling” with the observation that to commercially manage forests, fisheries and other “natural living resources” but not whales makes no sense. He dismisses as a “fallacy” that there must be one commercial activity (whale watching) to the exclusion of the other (whaling).

There are enough whales for both those that want to watch them and those who want to eat them.

I fully respect the right of Australians to oppose whaling for some “cuddly” reasons, but this does not give them the right to coerce others to end a perfectly legal and culturally significant activity that poses no threat to the species concerned.

And on Wednesday, with two of Sea Shepherd‘s unruly wankers aboard his ship, he said the pair would be given an opportunity to try whale meat while aboard the ship.

Hat-tip on that last quote to The Road to Surfdom.

63 Replies to “My new hero: Hideki Moronuki”

  1. He’s lying — both about the “enough whales for everyone” and about whaling being culturally significant. I wonder if he knows he’s lying or if he’s just gullible.

    Those two protesters, however, need to be prosecuted for piracy. Doesn’t matter what your intentions are: if you forcibly board a ship in international waters, you’re a pirate. And not a cuddly parrot-and-eyepath Cap’n Jack Sparrow type, or a pointlessly-misnamed downloading-the-latest-Torchwood type, but a real, live, throw-them-in-the-brig-and-let-them-rot type.

  2. @Eric TF Bat: I don’t know enough about the ecology of whales to know whether the claim of “sustainable” is right or wrong. But as for Moronuki, well, he’s the whaling commissioner — it’s his job to promote Japan’s cause. Though I suspect his words were written by a good PR firm.

    Agreed about the piracy of Sea Shepherd. “Taking the law into your own hands,” charging about like yahoos and endangering the lives of yourselves and others in remote, dangerous waters is fuckwittedness of the first water.

  3. He makes some good points, IMHO. People (outside Japan anyway) have a overwhelming tendency to get misty-eyed about the “cuddly” whales to the extent that all reason is thrown overboard. I find this attitude quite annoying. The natural world is not a beauty pageant. (More here).

  4. Then let ’em hunt for whales that venture into Japanese territorial waters, not our (Australian) declared ocean sanctuary inside *our* Antarctic territorial waters.

    We chased, arrested and summarily dealt with Uruguayan-flagged fishing boat toothfish poachers, with the help of the Kiwi, French and South African navies back in ’04, so why should Japanese whale pirates be treated any differently?

    What’s good for the goose is good for the whale blubber, I say!

    And no, I’m not a “misty eyed” greenie. I accept “cultural” tradition; only get upset with the Taiji Dolphin slaughter because dispatch of the hapless beasts seems needlessly cruel sometimes, nor do I rail against the the aboriginal whale hunts by Arctic circle first nations who have IWC permits to do so, but the “scientific whaling” being conducted by Japan is neither sanctioned by the IWC, nor legal in our sovereign waters.

    IMO, the Iced VoVos should have sent a Collins Class sub down to do a few exercises, and sent the fleet packing.

    I say good on Sea Shepard and their crew.

  5. @Alastair: Ta for that link. More for me to read…

    @Cassie ST: I thought the whole point was than the Japanese whaling is within IWC rules? Apart from their justification of “scientific”, perhaps, but doesn’t the burden of proof fall on the prosecutors to demonstrate that it’s not being scientific?

    [Note to the hard of thinking: This is called the devil’s advocate technique, and does not necessarily indicate that I support any particular position which you might imagine hold by inference or assumption from what I ask.]

    On the other hand, we’ll have to agree to disagree about Sea Shepherd. A RAN submarine is one thing — a vessel belonging to a legally-constituted navy acting under the valid orders of a constitutional government. But a bunch of vigilantes with an adrenalin addiction boarding a ship on the high seas and interfering with its operation — and sometimes even sinking them — is nothing but piracy.

    As Eric TF Bat said, they should have been locked up, not returned to the Steve Irwin.

    It’s appropriate that Sea Shepherd’s ship is called the Steve Irwin: they’re both loud, attention-seeking wankers who get far more media oxygen than their importance warrants.

  6. Hey Stil,

    All “Devil’s Advocacy” aside (methinks you’re just trolling….) I reiterate, the hunt is neither sanctioned (i.e wasn’t voted in favour of, by a majorty of IWC members at the last meeting) nor is it legal (per the recent Federal Court ruling) in Australian Territorial waters.

    Sheesh, what part of NO!, is it that people don’t seem to understand?


  7. @Cassie ST: I’m genuinely angry about Sea Shepherd’s piracy. When Oceanic Viking collected their boarding team (Benjamin Potts and Giles Lane) from the Yushim Maru No 2 they should have been detained pending charges being laid, not returned to the Steve Irwin.

    Wikipedia discusses the problems with the International Whaling Commission — which was founded in 1946 to protect whale stocks for hunting, as it happens. It was only in the 1970s that its focus turned to conserving whales for the whales’ sake.

    Now hunting and killing whales is not a pretty business. But neither is hunting kangaroos, goats, tuna, octopus… Even farm animals meet a messy end. I didn’t exactly enjoy the first time I chopped off a chicken’s head when I was about 8 years old — and since I was a kid and not skilled with the tomahawk it was a very messy end indeed! But I still had chicken for dinner that night.

    If whales can be hunted sustainably — I’m not saying they can be, there’s an “if” there — but if they can be, then I really don’t see the difference between hunting them or any other critter that walks, swims, flies, wriggles or crawls. It’s all a matter of taste. Westerners don’t eat dog; others are not so fussed.

    Now the IWC faces legal problems enforcing its rulings because, as Wikipedia explains:

    First, the IWC is not based on international treaty, and therefore, any member countries are free to simply leave the organisation and declare themselves not to be bound by it if they so wish. Second, the IWC’s power to “legislate” a moratorium or quotas is very restricted, because any member state may opt out of a quota or moratorium simply by objecting to it. Third, the IWC has no authority or means to enforce any quotas, even on states that voluntarily put themselves under them.

    In brief, the IWC is a talk-fest where anyone who’s a member can just say “Screw you!” Which is basically what Japan has done.

    As for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, it’s not actually in Australian territorial waters. It’s in waters off Australia’s Antarctic Territory. Now Australian courts have asserted that we have the right to stop the Japanese actions there. Whether that’s actually enforceable under international law, particularly the Antarctic Treaty System, is another question.

    This one will run and run…

    Personally, I like whales. It’d be a shame for them to disappear. I think there’s probably other, yummier things we can eat. But the legal grounds for stopping Japan from doing what it’s doing are much, much shakier than the zealots of Greenpeace and the pirates of Sea Shepherd make out.

  8. Why, may I ask, do the Japanese (or anyone, for that matter) need to hunt whales in the first place?

    It seems quite obvious to me that the whole “scientific research” line they throw out is pure garbage – does anyone actually believe that anymore?

    And when they have tonnes of whale meat sitting around in warehouses because no one is eating it, to the point where they either are or were considering using it as pet food in order to reduce the stocks in said warehouses, why do they need to go and hunt even more? What on earth is wrong with these people?

    As for the claim of whaling being a “culturally significant activity”, why should that give them a free pass? An abhorrent activity is still abhorrent, “cultural” or not.

    (I find it quite despair-inducing that all manner of horrific acts worldwide continue to be perpetrated in the name of “culture” – such as (so-called) honour killings, female genital mutilation, and whaling, to name a few. Time to grow up, people.)

    I’m sure I could add plenty more to this, but I’m mad enough as it is, and I don’t want this to devolve into incoherence.

  9. Why, may I ask, do the Japanese (or anyone, for that matter) need to hunt whales in the first place?

    Probably the same reason why humans hunt *insert any other animal here*

    I fail to see why whaling is so specifically horrific as opposed to the numerous other animals in nature we hunt and farm.

  10. @Snarky Platypus: Maybe because they are/were hunting animals that are either endangered, or nearly so? We aren’t likely to run out of (for example) cows in the near future, are we? Come on, do we really have to hunt everything to extinction just because we can?

    And, as I said earlier, why do they need to hunt more whales when no one is eating the ones they’ve already killed?

  11. I’m finally catching up on comments from last week. The Heath Ledger Experiment was overwhelming! OK, so let’s try and unravel the threads… Here’s my list of the arguments being proposed.

    1. “Whales are endangered, so we should not hunt them.” Some whale species are endangered, others not. If a species is not under threat, should it not be huntable? Or is hunting itself the objection? Would farming be OK? (Don’t ask me how big a whale farm would be! Battery-farming is a option then, I guess.)
    2. “Japan’s whale hunters are breaking the law.” Questionable, given the information in my previous comment.
    3. “The ‘research’ being done by Japanese whalers isn’t ‘proper’ research.” Currently (on this website at least) that’s an assertion without evidence. More information please.
    4. “Hunting whales is cruel and ugly.” Yep, and so is hunting kangaroo, goat, crocodile… The only difference is that we don’t have Greenpeace showing us pictures of a roo hunt every second weekend. Cluster-bombing Iraqi army recruits wasn’t pretty either.
    5. “Japan already has more whale meat than they need.” Then they’re idiots, or have some other agenda for propping up an uneconomic industry. Any suggestions?

    Have I covered all the bases?

    @Fnord Prefect: You ask: “Come on, do we really have to hunt everything to extinction just because we can?” Who’s talking about hunting being “to extinction”? Straw man. Already crossed that off the list. So if that’s the objection, we’re in “furious agreement”.

    1. Your first point.

      “Whales are endangered, so we should not hunt them.” Some whale species are endangered, others not. If a species is not under threat, should it not be huntable? Or is hunting itself the objection? Would farming be OK? (Don’t ask me how big a whale farm would be! Battery-farming is a option then, I guess.)

      So we should hunt things until they are endangered then stop for a bit????

      This isn’t the problem mate. Hunting is perfectly natural and has been since the start of man. The problem now is that we are “over killing”. We are killing to much than we need for mass production. Supermarkets on average waste about 700 animal products a day for going past their sell-by date in great Britain itself. I know these animals are bred to be killed for food but that is a lot of animals that died in vain.

      1. @Alrek: You ask:

        So we should hunt things until they are endangered then stop for a bit????

        Well, if you change that to stopping the hunt before you hit the endangerment point, rather than afterwards, I really don’t see what the problem is. The key word there is “endangered”. If the species is not “endangered”, then by definition it is not, um, in danger.

        I agree that waste is terrible. But is “700 animal products a day” a lot or a few, in percentage terms? I have no numbers, and since you haven’t presented any I’ll write off the big-sounding “700” as rhetorical trick, not analysis.

        “700 animal products” isn’t “700 animals”. An “animal product” might be a single packet of bacon, which means you need a heck of a lot of them to go past use-by to account for even one little piggy. Or an “animal product” might be a litre of milk — which doesn’t involve the death of anything. Except possibly a few bacteria when the milk was pasteurised.

        My aim is to separate out the emotion and, in some cases, hysteria, from actual analysis.

    1. [Comment deleted as it’s potentially defamatory — Stilgherrian]

  12. @bob moreno: I think you’ll find that Steve Irwin himself was somewhat dead at the time. The MV Steve Irwin was originally the Robert Hunter, but re-christened on 5 December 2007 — well after Irwin’s death on 4 September 2006.

    Finger-pointing should presumably be directed at his widow who seems quite happy to have family members exploited for profit, dead or alive. A pity she doesn’t grant them the same sanctity as the whales.

  13. Finger-pointing should presumably be directed at his widow who seems quite happy to have family members exploited for profit, dead or alive.


  14. I’ve been watching whale wars and completely agree with their doing. Some might be a bit rash but as the Sea Shepherd captain said, “this is what the government should be doing, but they aren’t doing anything about it so we will have too”. This sentence is interesting and somewhat “true”. It’s sickening how how the Japs have found a loophole in whaling. Oh yeah let’s just tell everyone it’s for research and then nothing can be done about it.

    Bullshit, I understand how this world works and it’s mostly around greed and many a man would do horrible things for money and power. So they say it’s for research, why are they killing around 1000 whales each time they go out, don’t you think that’s too much? I mean, what are they exactly researching? Then they sell the meat so it doesn’t go to “waste” which is where they make their money. This Hideki Moronuki guy is the typical “sit back and send his minions out to do the dirty work while he rakes in the money”, there is no room for greedy twats like this to exist on this earth but unfortunately there is a lot of people like that in the world. Pity

    1. @Alrek: So let me get this right. If there’s something you reckon the government should be doing, but they’re not, then you believe it’s OK to just go out and do it yourself? With no authority other than your own righteous indignation? Even when what your target is doing is legal and your action is not? Even when it involves risk to life and property?

      Sorry, I simply cannot agree with that vigilante mentality.

      1. Yeah and sit-ins are illegal too. When a government bans a march, doing the march anyway is illegal. Rosa Parks sitting at the front of the bus was illegal. (Resisting invoking Godwin’s law, but all that shit in the 1940s: legal.)

        This is the nature of direct action. Sure, they’re taking a more extreme approach to it, but “it’s illegal” isn’t the argument to use against it. The law, from the perspective of those violating it, deserves to be broken.

    2. If whaling does cease in the SO what will Paul Watson liar extraordinaire do for MONEY? and FAME? and GLORY? and HERO status? and ‘I’m a celebrity you know what I mean and I shake my blubbery ass on the red carpet, on the red carpet …” Watson really wants to be the good guy who races off like the admiral of a fleet to go to war with the Japanese and return home. . a hero !! HE WANTS WHALING TO CONTINUE can be sure of that .. [Potentially defamatory material deleted. – Stilgherrian] even he knows that ‘heros’ fall , his star is fading fast as the world , thanks to Whale Wars has seen him in his true colours. How ironic.

  15. When a tricked out speedboat and a 500-ton ship collide, you’ve got to ask: which one was capable of manoeuvring to avoid the other?

    1. The answer is obvious even to blind freddy , ask those who know him on an intimate level.Paul Watson wouldnt be so low as to let a Japanese ship slice a really fast boat , not owned by him but Ady Gil, two would he ? he wouldnt have the cameras rolling to get this amazing footage for WHALE WARS would he ? to boost the ratings would he? he wouldnt ASK and EXPECT poor old Bethune to climb on a Japanese ship at 3 am would he ? with a bill for a boat not owned by either Bethune or Wathisname would he ? hes an honourable man isnt he ? isnt he??????? yeah were not protesters were pirates !!

  16. Re point 4 on your list.

    All hunting for the purposes of industrialised agribusiness I think is basically an offensive and ecologically unsustainable activity. So not just whales, but wild-stock fisheries in general need to be stopped and alternatives found.

  17. Stil,
    I can appreciate your trolling, but hunting an intelligent species just for shits and giggles is pretty clearly wrong to me. That the Australian government hasn’t the balls to bother trying to make the slightest effort to stop it is disgusting.

    Yes, the Sea Shephards are taking the law into their own hands. The libertarian part of me says “yay”. Were I in charge of the orbital lasers the japanese “scientific” whaling fleet would be floating cinders.

  18. Not aimed at any commenter here today, but…

    I find it extremely frustrating in this discussion — and especially on Twitter! — that so many people seem incapable of understanding that my disgust at Sea Shepherd’s vigilante-pirate tactics does not mean I’m pro-whaling or a supporter of Japan’s claim to be conducting “scientific” whaling. I am neither of those things.

    I do, however, think that a bunch of people taking it upon themselves to enforce their version of international law — without reference to established institutions or authorities, with blatant disregard to the safety of lives at sea, and with the stated policy that telling the truth isn’t necessary — is not a path to a better world.

    However Sea Shepherd’s supporters, formal and informal, are Saving the Whales with religious zeal. Any critics are therefore not Saving the Whales. Critical thinking has been suspended. Fuckwits.

    (In the same way, those opposed to the Australian government’s mandatory Internet censorship are told they’re failing to “protect the children”. Again, rational thinking is suspended.)

    They have already convinced themselves of the righteousness of their mission, so it’s largely pointless explaining — as I’ve explained above — that the ban on commercial whaling is merely a ruling of the IWC, a body which is not based on a treaty, and which therefore has shaky legal foundations. Australia’s claim to various Antarctic waters is similarly just an ambit claim, supported only by a small cheer squad of suck-up nations wanting a deal on something else.

    ABC Radio’s PM explored some of these legal issues last night.

    Again, I’m not saying any of these things are “right”. I’m merely pointing out that’s the framework within which we’re operating.

    Of course all that international law and negotiation — that stuff which actually accomplishes change in the long term — isn’t as exciting as zooming about on the ocean with the adrenalin coursing in your veins. It doesn’t get you onto the TV news.

    And it doesn’t let you goad your opponents through constant irritation until they, in frustration, finally strike back — allowing you to screech, like a kindergarten bully, “They hit me, Miss! Make them stop!”

    Like it or not, the Japanese whalers are — at least by their own perhaps-flawed legal logic — going about their lawful business on the High Seas. Following constant harassment, they have deployed a security ship for their protection, the Shonan Maru 2.

    In a vast empty reaches of the Southern Ocean, for some reason the Ady Gil was sitting dead in the water in front of the Shonan Maru 2. There was a collision — which Sea Shepherd and a shoal of instant experts on interpreting video of maritime safety incidents claim was deliberate. This is, of course, the result that Sea Shepherd wanted. In a series of ever-more-violent encounters which they provoked, they are the victims.

    “They hit me, Miss! Make them stop!”

    There is another possible headline for this incident, based on Eric Scheid’s tweet:

    Japanese fishermen ram pirate ship, lucky escape.

    @John Carney: The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGS) are a useful read. It is the responsibility of the Ady Gil‘s commander to avoid collision — something which, it strikes me, is not accomplished by choosing to sit dead in the water directly in front of another vessel in the vast empty ocean.

    @scot: Indeed, industrialised hunting of any species can potentially be unsustainable. (I’m only hedging my words there because I don’t know enough about it to confidently assert that all such hunting would inevitably be unsustainable. Quotas may, perhaps, work.) The wider question of how we feed the world is important.

    But there’s a difference between “ecologically unsustainable” (a rational concept) and “offensive” (an emotional concept). I’m trying to de-fuse the emotive language that fills this debate.

    @anthony baxter: “Trolling”? Maybe, but with aim of illustrating that all this is hardly the “Japanese whalers bad, Sea Shepherd good” it’s made out to be.

    Portraying the Australian government’s position as “hasn’t the balls to bother trying to make the slightest effort” is misleading, IMHO. The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, published the Australian position on whaling last year. There’s also the transcripts of doorstop interviews.

    They’re going through established channels, as it were.

    Remind me never to leave you in charge of the orbital lasers, you dangerously unstable hothead you.

    1. It doesn’t matter if the Japanese ship hit Bin Laden’s holiday yacht or the good ship Lollipop. The only relevant investigation here is how the collision occurred. Did the Shonan Maru 2 deliberately steer towards the Ady Gil? Did the Ady Gil put itself in danger or do enough to try to prevent the collision? The collision is a matter for the marine traffic cops. Support for or against the Japanese or the Sea Shepherd is irrelevant.

    2. Two big big problems here:
      1) You make an inflammatory comment and turn off comments. Cop out.
      2) The stance you’re taking is roughly equivalent to the stance the right-wing press takes whenever some leftie group organises some civil disobedience. It’s this idea that if it’s the law, it must be correct and must be respected. Civil disobedience is what ended slavery, the Vietnam War and any number of other unjust, but legal, things in our society. If a law is wrong and you believe strongly enough that it’s wrong, sometimes laws have to get broken.

      Finally, the reason the Labor Government is being held to a high standard on this issue is that _they made electoral hay_ out of this when they were in opposition. Sure, Greg Hunt is a hypocrite because his party did just as little when in power, but it’s hard to go past this quote:

      “Let’s take the entire Japanese scientific whaling regime worldwide (and) put it under scrutiny before the International Court of Justice.” (Kevin Rudd, AAP, 20.05.05)

    3. @Simon Rumble: I haven’t turned off comments entirely, Simon. As with yesterday’s post, I wanted to channel comments into this thread so they’re all together. Maybe I should have added a note to that effect to today’s post. I’ll do so shortly. I certainly don’t wish to limit discussion.

      I get the point about civil disobedience and, yes, sometimes the law must be broken to achieve a goal. My point is that, in my opinion, Sea Shepherd is going way beyond what is acceptable and necessary, and is hypocritical to cry victim when it has, effectively, chosen to turn this into a physical war at sea.

      Thanks for that Kevin Rudd quote. I agree with what he says. Shame he doesn’t seem to be doing it yet.

  19. I too am aghast at vigilantism in this matter, but am also torn that protest, publicity and civil disobedience can change apathy/public opinion and therefore politicians minds.

    If something like the scenarios set up in Arthur C Clarke’s The Deep Range could be put in place then I think we would all feel less mortified at the apparent pain and ugliness these animals go through in dying.

    I don’t really want whales to be killed, but if they “have” to be, something cold, clean and clinical would be the best solution in my opinion.

  20. Here is my experience regarding recent events. I too was banned from the Sea Shepherd forums for apparently trolling, however all I did was express with evidence an alternate view point to their rhetoric and group think mentality.

    Censorship and denying freedom of speech is a pretty appalling thing for a conservation organisation to engage in although not at all surprising.

  21. I’m no more fond of vigilantism than you are Stil, nor am I a major shave the whales type… but answer me this: Do the Japanese have any right to use lethal force to stop harassment from SSCS?

    It’s plain from the videos and still photos that 491 tonne steel hulled Shonan Maru 2 steered directly at the 18 tonne composite/plywood Ady Gil’s bridge and struck it broadside, whilst AG was stationary (note no bow wake nor prop wash from AG) and not in SM2’s path. SM2 altered course for no purpose other than to collide with AG. Throwing 491t worth of steel at 12kts into 18t of woven material and plywood could have no other result but to breach the small craft’s hull and sink it — in open ocean.

    I’m not asking whether you approve of SSCS’s tactics, whether you think people should shave the whales or if you think whale meat is murder. I’m asking if you think the Japanese have a right to kill SSCS protesters — because it’s rather plain that they tried to do so.

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