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Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs” – film-maker and documentarian Werner Herzog.

On Tuesday, September 6, three powerful new films chronicling EIA’s recent undercover investigations into timber smuggling, the ivory trade and whaling will make their world debut in the USA on Nat Geo Wild.

Paul Redman and Clare Perry filming in a Japanese fish market (c) EIA

Broadcast under the collective banner of Crimes Against Nature, Blood Ivory depicts the brutal horror of elephant poaching in Kenya and black market trade in the marketplaces of Hong Kong and China; Making a Killing exposes Iceland’s hunting of endangered fin whales to package and sell for consumption in Japan; and Chainsaw Massacre uncovers the Vietnamese army’s involvement in the widespread smuggling of timber from neighbouring Laos.

Each film follows seasoned EIA investigators in the field as they methodically piece together the clues of wildlife and forest crime and follow evidence trails leading to corrupt officialdom, organised criminal syndicates and grasping businessmen. Along the way, viewers will share the setbacks and successes in films rich with imagery both startling and haunting.

What they won’t see, and possibly won’t suspect, is the long year of preparations and often physically and emotionally demanding work behind the scenes to get three one-hour films in the can.

The project effectively began in 2009, following EIA’s tiger team in China and Nepal for a pilot film eventually broadcast early last year on Nat Geo Wild as Eco Crime Investigators – Inside the Tiger Trade.

The broadcast, first in the USA and subsequently worldwide (and it’s still in heavy rotation), was such a success that further programmes were commissioned.

On location in Kenya with Mary Rice and Dave Currey (c) EIA

Initial meetings with the London-based production company hired by Nat Geo to make the films focused on the likely scope of the three investigations, the probable shooting times and budget requirements for each, and a loose schedule around which investigators would have to fit all their usual campaign work and commitments.

It was in October 2010, when filming was concluded in Iceland and underway in Vietnam, that I was brought onboard as Project Co-ordinator; you could draw up a job description for the role which might run to several sides of A4, or you could just as accurately say my primary function was to help ease the process along as required.

Both EIA and the production company shared the same goal – to make the best programmes possible; naturally, both came at it with different considerations to the fore. The nature of conducting investigations in the field is that you never know what’s going to turn up and where it might lead; the nature of film-making is that you have to satisfy those commissioning the venture that they’re going to end up with a solid narrative arc and a substantial conclusion, preferably before shooting begins.

From the word ‘go’, EIA was adamant that its investigators would not serve as props, nor would they be mouthpieces for scripted lines which might in any way reflect poorly or inaccurately on the organisation, its methodology or its invaluable work. At the same time, we accepted that the film-makers needed to distil often-complex issues in a way that was accurate and wouldn’t leave viewers scratching their collective brows and reaching for the remote control. Looking at the finished products (and I believe I must have done so a score of times for each!), I think it’s fair to say this was achieved remarkably well.

In the field was where problems could most easily arise as directors fretted that they wouldn’t get the key shots they needed within the timeframe allowed, or when they were debriefing an investigator following an emotionally exhausting undercover filming session and needed the same kind of projected energy on take seven as was given the first time around. But our investigators are nothing if not troopers – and on many occasions during this project they were fixers and guides too – and the passion they have for their various campaigns all but radiates from the screen.

Julian Newman interviewed during filming in Laos (c) EIA

When location filming concluded by late March, it remained to fine-tune the narratives, film interviews with the key campaigners and nail down the voice-over and visual inserts such as animated maps..

With security the key consideration for EIA, this was also the time for me to go through each film with a fine toothcomb and ensure that the identity of our undercover Chinese investigator was protected at all times; you’d be amazed at how often somebody’s features can be fleetingly reflected in background mirrors and table tops.

All that remains now is for you to watch the films, and help EIA by spreading the word for others to do the same.

* After the US premiere on Tuesday, the three programmes are due to be broadcast on Nat Geo Wild in other territories, including the UK, later this year – watch our website and blog for details as we learn them.

Paul Newman, Press OfficerPaul Newman

Press Officer

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EIA Campaigners will be blogging on a daily basis from the IWC.

Day 4 – Thursday 14th July – The Last Day

 

UK commissioner speaks to the transparency proposal. Credit EIA.

UK commissioner speaks to the transparency proposal.

After the great result on the UK governance proposal, we sped through some other business last night – agreeing important items such as the Audited Accounts, the budget and other financial and administrative business.

The report of the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub Committee report was agreed with very little controversy, other than an exchange of views between India and the Russian Federation, after India called for aboriginal subsistence quotas to be reduced in the future. Next year will not be so easy as the catch limits for these hunts will be due for renewal. A resolution was adopted by consensus agreeing to a work plan to prepare for next year’s discussions on these catch limits.

Next up was the eternally controversial request by Japan for an IWC endorsed quota for four of its coastal communities. Japan has made this request every year since the moratorium on commercial whaling was implemented 25 years ago. Whilst Japan had a placeholder on the agenda for a proposal relating to this matter, it stated that it decided in the interest of cooperation not to make this request.

NGOs at work at the IWC. Credit EIA.

NGOs at work at the IWC. Credit EIA.

Discussions on the Future of the IWC have dominated the IWC for the past 3 years, including several intersessional meetings. Last year discussions were abandoned and a year’s pause was promised for reflection. This year a Resolution was tabled by the US and New Zealand calling for further cooperative work. After some disagreement on proposed revisions to the resolution, it was withdrawn with a ‘sort of’ agreement to work cooperatively together in future. It is very clear to EIA what the future of the IWC is – focusing maximum effort and resources on effectively addressing the myriad of threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises including climate change, pollution, ship strikes, entanglement and marine debris.

The day concluded with a most enjoyable reception hosted by a coalition of NGOs. Delegates had time to relax, enjoy some delicious food, and friendly chat. A good end to a hard day.

Thursday dawned as the final day of this annual meeting. It started with discussion of a resolution on safety at sea, proposed by Japan (in response to Sea Shepherd’s campaign in the Southern Ocean). Having withdrawn the coastal whaling quota, this was Japan’s key issue, and despite the fact that the IWC is not the correct forum to discuss safety at sea issues, delegates agreed the Resolution in the continuing spirit of compromise and consensus. Unfortunately, that spirit didn’t last.

Japan walks out. Credit EIA

Japan walks out.

For ten years Latin American countries have been calling for the IWC to agree a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic to contribute to greater protection of depleted whale populations, investment in scientific research, and creation of local cetacean watching opportunities with the associated economic benefits. One NGO from each side of the debate was permitted to make a presentation on the subject – some small compensation for the proposal on NGO participation having been removed from yesterday’s agreement.

Whilst the majority of IWC contracting governments supported the proposed sanctuary Iceland, Saint Kitts and Cameroun said they would block a consensus. With regret, Brazil decided to call for a vote, however Japan then stated that they and all ‘sustainable use’ countries would leave the room so there would be no quorum (a quorum is the minimum number of members who must be present for decisions to be made – IWC rules state that “Attendance by a majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum”). Japan stated that their understanding was that with 89 members, 45 should form a quorum. He further stated “..this is not a hostile action, we only do this to avoid voting”. Although many countries urged Japan and others not to take such drastic steps, after the Chair of the Commission asked for a vote to take place, Japan, Iceland, Norway and all other pro-whaling countries left the room.

Pro-whaling countries stage walk out to block whale sanctuary. Credit EIA.

Pro-whaling countries stage walk out to block whale sanctuary.

That was at 12:00 and at 8.30pm, some eight & a half hours later, Commissioners finally dragged themselves back to the plenary room, having agreed a short text which explained what had happened (in very diplomatic words which made Japan, Iceland and their allies look much more reasonable than they actually were). The text essentially agreed to form an intersessional group to look further into the rules of procedure, and to leave the sanctuary agenda item open with its discussion to be the first substantive item at the beginning of IWC64. In effect, Japan, Iceland and others successfully blocked the democratic right of the Latin Americans to have their sanctuary proposal voted on.

The chair then asked for adoption of the Conservation Committee report, Conservation Management Plans, Whale watching, Environment and Health Issues, Small cetaceans and other items under the Scientific Committee report with no discussion (and no NGO interventions). A frankly depressing end to a meeting that had started so well.

The only highlight was the announcement by the Secretary that a group of NGOs had contributed more than £10,000 to the small cetacean fund and this was followed up by generous contributions by Italy and France.

It was then agreed that the tricky issue electing a Chair and Vice-Chair would be done by post, and a short presentation was given by Panama, who will host IWC64. The finale of the meeting was a standing ovation to Fiona and Bernard from the IWC Secretariat. They are both taking retirement after more than two decades each of loyal, hard working and cheerful service to the IWC. They will be greatly missed. The IWC Secretariat work tirelessly all year to ensure our meetings run smoothly and always have a smile for everyone. Our best wishes to Fiona and Bernard and thanks to all the staff for everything they do for the organisation.

Vicky - probably everyone's favourite delegate... Credit EIA

Vicky - probably everyone's favourite delegate... Credit EIA

It’s hard not to feel discouraged that so much of the time, money and effort that we put into whale and dolphin conservation can be so easily sabotaged by the underhand tactics of just a few countries. But while the conservation work might not have had the discussion at IWC63 that it deserved, the work will still go on and we will be ready next year to insist that whale conservation is discussed as a priority issue at the start of the meeting. And we were also pleased that our report had encouraged a number of countries to forcefully criticise Iceland’s whaling and whale trade at the IWC meeting – something that is long overdue.

***

Day 3 – Wednesday 13th July

Despite having just two days of the meeting left yet three days of work to do, discussions on the UK’s governance proposal lasted the whole day.

Each proposed change was picked apart, particularly by Iceland, St Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda. One of the key points of contention was the proposal that payments of membership contributions must be by bank transfer only and not by cash. This simple, best practice payment rule would go a long way to counter the accusations of corruption which have dominated the IWC in recent years.

Frustration ruled and by lunchtime it was agreed that a small group of the most vocal speakers of the day, plus the UK, would meet to hammer out an agreement. Three hours later, the meeting resumed and a revised document was presented to the meeting.

Clare Perry at the IWC. Credit EIA

Clare Perry at the IWC. Credit EIA

Finally, agreement was reached and the revised proposal was adopted by consensus. Some compromises had been made and, notably, the attempt to improve IWC observer participation through the Rules was withdrawn early on in the meeting. But it was still a hugely important move forward for the IWC and something that even at the start of the day seemed unlikely to be resolved.

One of the key changes for us is that, at last, the Scientific Committee report will be made available on the IWC’s website within 14 days of the conclusion of the Scientific Committee meeting. Up until now, we have not been allowed to see the report until 10am on the first day of the Commission meeting. At this point, most of the Resolutions and other decision texts are already in play, we are run off our feet trying to talk to delegates and circulate our reports and it’s impossible to read and absorb a report which is usually around 100 pages long.

Despite the pain, the IWC has made a good decision with this package of changes to the Rules of Procedure. EIA pays tribute to the UK delegation and, in particular, to Jolyon Thompson who stewarded the proposal through with eloquence and determination.

At 6.50pm in the evening of day three we started to get on with the substantive issues to be discussed, quickly finishing the Finance and Admin report and starting to look at aboriginal subsistence whaling, which is ongoing as I write … it will be a long night.

 ***

Day 2 – Tuesday 12th July

On Tuesday, the IWC discussed ‘financial and administrative matters’, which was actually a lot more interesting than you might think, and certainly crucial to the way the IWC carries out its work.

The biggest proposal on the table at this year’s meeting is one from the UK to improve the governance and effectiveness of operations of the IWC. Part of the proposal aims to bring in measures which can help eliminate the corruption that has allegedly been rife within the organisation and was highlighted by a Sunday Times exposé last year – for example, countries would no longer be able to pay their contributions in cash but would have to pay via “bank transfer from an account belonging to the Contracting Government or to a state institution of that Government”.

IWC held in Jersey this year. Credit EIAIn addition, this proposal would ensure key documents such as the Scientific Committee report are available to observers, and that decisions are swiftly translated and available in the other two working languages of the Commission (French and Spanish).

The most controversial aspect of the UK proposal, however, was to do with the participation of observers (including NGOs such as EIA) in the IWC. For years, observers have had no speaking rights at the IWC, even though the Rules of Procedure actually allow us to speak. In recent years, there has been some attempt to improve this situation, with NGOs given a half-hour to present a limited number of views, usually at the end of the meeting when all the decisions have been taken. As you can imagine, with many conservation NGOs attending the IWC it has been a taxing and time-consuming task just to agree which NGOs can speak and on which issues. This initiative from the UK would bring the IWC up to some really basic standards which are already common practice in many multilateral environmental agreements.

UK Minister Richard Beynon was on hand to appeal to IWC member governments to adopt the proposals, which are not anti- or pro-whaling but a bare minimum required to show the world that the IWC continues to be a functional and effective body. In order to bring Denmark (part of the European Union, but basically representing the whaling interests of the Faroes & Greenland), the UK dropped the section on observer participation so the proposal could be presented by the EU group as a whole.

Photo of yesterday when the EU were trying to deal with St Kitts and Nevis / Russian Federation disruption of the discussion of their proposal. Credit Milko Schvartzman

Photo of yesterday when the EU were trying to deal with St Kitts and Nevis / Russian Federation disruption of the discussion of their proposal. Credit Milko Schvartzman

Despite these efforts to compromise, Saint Kitts & Nevis, the Russian Federation and other pro-whaling delegations successfully disrupted proceedings, which forced a private meeting of Commissioners to be held near the end of the day. The meeting then closed, with the promise of a revised proposal, from the UK, to be discussed first thing on Wednesday morning.

 ***

Day 1 – Monday 11th July

EIA is at the International Whaling Commission’s Annual Meeting taking place in Jersey this week. We were here all last week attending working group meetings (which discuss some of the substantive detail of many issues relating to whales) but now it is time for the decisions and politics.

Two really good things happened today – and I can honestly say I can’t recall that happening on the first day of an IWC meeting for many years. First, South African Commissioner Herman Oosthuizen agreed to chair the meeting. We were left without a Chair or Vice-Chair for the Commission at the end of last year’s meeting, and clearly this is a huge problem if the IWC is to continue developing its key role in the global management and conservation of whales and other cetaceans. Herman is greatly respected, has wide experience of the IWC and is open to fair and constructive participation by NGOs, unlike some delegates here who would rather conduct their business behind closed doors.

Minke Whale. © Joanne Weston | Dreamstime.com

Minke Whale. © Joanne Weston | Dreamstime.com

The second surprise was when we came to discussion of the Scientific Committee’s deliberations on the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) catch limits for North Atlantic fin whale. Now the Scientific Committee has not actually been asked to calculate catch limits because, as we all know, there is a ban on commercial whaling. However, since Iceland is pursuing unilateral rogue whaling of fin and minke whales, the Scientific Committee has been looking at which variants of the RMP would be appropriate to be able to provide advice on the sustainability of catches. Since 2010, the Scientific Committee has been clear in its advice that a catch of 46 fin whales is the currently acceptable catch limit – compare this to Iceland’s 2009 and 2010 catches of fin whales, which were 125 and 148 fin whales respectively. Despite this, last year no countries drew attention to the fact that Iceland’s catch was clearly unsustainable because all countries (other than Iceland) were attempting to avoid controversial issues in the hope that the IWC could agree a compromise whaling deal which would somehow satisfy both anti- and pro-whaling countries.

With the compromise whaling proposal dead in the water, it was refreshing to hear a number of countries speak eloquently in support of precautionary science in the conservation of whales. Monaco kicked off the debate by drawing attention to the fact that Iceland’s catches of fin whales are much higher than sustainable limits, and was supported by the UK, New Zealand, Mexico, US and Australia. The New Zealand Commissioner called Iceland’s whaling as risky, inappropriate and unlawful.

Renegade Whaling. Image Credit Jonas FreydalEIA came to the IWC with a new report on Iceland’s whaling and trade in whale products, determined to ensure that the IWC member countries recognise and respond to Iceland’s whaling, so this was a great start to the meeting and we’ll continue to lobby countries to pressure Iceland.

Other issues covered included a UK proposal to progress work on welfare and ethics. It was disappointing that Norway refused to participate but the work will go forward nonetheless and the UK will be working hard to try to persuade Norway and other whaling nations to contribute in the future.

The meeting started with a welcoming address from the Government of Jersey and it is a pleasure to stay on this beautiful island (even though we are basically sitting in a cave most of the time). Somehow Jersey’s eccentricities well suit the slightly eccentric IWC that continues to protect hundreds of thousands of great whales with the international ban on commercial whaling.

Twenty-five years after its implementation, the ongoing ban on whaling is still vital to the conservation of whales and we will continue to work hard every year to ensure it is maintained and to improve the effectiveness of the IWC.

Clare Perry

Clare Perry

Senior Campaigner

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ICELAND: A DEATH TRAP FOR FIN WHALES

Over the years, your support has made a big difference in EIA’s efforts to save endangered cetaceans from indiscriminate slaughter. Among our accomplishments, we have exposed and reduced the unsustainable Dall’s porpoise hunt in Japanand have reduced the demand for cetacean meat within the country. We would have never been able to do it without your support, so thank you for your generosity.

Donate NowBut whales are not safe yet. Right now, minke whales are under attack off the coasts of Iceland and Iceland is threatening to hunt endangered fin whales later in the year.Iceland’s whalers have grown increasingly bold despite the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, catching 125 endangered fin whales in 2009 and in 2010, that number increased to 148. This year’s hunt quota is 154 fin whales. This is tragically significant since the global fin whale population has declined 70% in the last 80 years.

EIA has conducted an important investigation into the deplorable Icelandic fin whale hunt, and will publish an eye-opening report to be distributed this year at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and internationally.

By making a donation of £10 today, you can help EIA publish this report and be a vital part of our mission to expose the senseless atrocity of the hunt.

MILLIONAIRE LEADS BRUTAL WHALING CRUSADE

Fin Whale caught in Iceland. Credit EIA.

Fin Whale caught in Iceland. Credit EIA.

Shockingly, the revival of fin whale hunting within Iceland has been spearheaded by a single individual, a millionaire businessman with considerable ties toIceland’s most powerful fisheries company. While the country appears indifferent to the issue, he and his fellow whalers paint their activities as an integral part of the national Icelandic tradition.

The truth is that this man is not as concerned with Icelandic tradition as he purports to be. By reviving the Icelandic whaling industry, he hopes to create a valuable new market for whale products in Japan, making considerable profits at the expense of an endangered species.

Whale. Credit Debbie BellIceland is currently in negotiations to join the European Union, and seeking to continue whaling as an EU member. Many people in the Icelandic government are anti-whaling but are not able to address the issue as most of their information regarding the hunt comes straight from the whalers themselves. This lack of transparency is beneficial to the whaling industry and deadly for the whales. EIA has the evidence to inform the Icelandic government about what is really going on.

LAYERS OF TRAGEDY

Investigations by EIA earlier this year year showed that potentially a sizeable market for Icelandic whale products does in fact exist in Japan. However, some of the whale meat from Iceland is discarded once it reaches Japan because of its poor-quality, a saddening thought for those whales that lost their lives to obtain that meat.

What is equally disturbing about the current scenario in Icelandis that minke whale hunters and anti-whaling whale watching trips operate in the same waters. This means that the minke whales whose majestic beauty and grace are admired by curious whale watchers are the same creatures being caught and slaughtered by local whalers.

RAISING AWARENESS & TAKING A STAND                     DONATE TODAY.

EIA is the perfect organisation to tackle the whaling problem in Iceland. With our signature investigative approach, we have uncovered the information that the whalers don’t want brought to light. The information contained in our report will be impossible to ignore. The IWC will be forced to take a stand against the brutality of the Icelandic whaling industry.

The aim of our efforts is three-fold:

  • Raise awareness ofIceland’s whaling activity for financial and political ends
  • Obtain a formal statement from the IWC condemning the Icelandic fin whale hunt
  • Put international pressure on Icelandto terminate the fin whale hunt in the country

EIA urgently needs your help. Please donate to our efforts and help us stop whaling in Europe.

Donate by Text todayYours sincerely,

Clare Perry

Head of Cetaceans Campaign

Did you know?

The Fin Whale has been nicknamed the ‘greyhound of the sea’ as it’s one of the fastest cetaceans, reaching up to speeds of 25 mph!

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The terrible scale of the human and environmental disaster still unfolding in Japan is almost beyond comprehension.

Overwhelmed by Friday’s massive earthquake and the tsunami it triggered, the people of that country hadn’t even time to begin to count the cost before they found themselves threatened by nuclear contamination.

The stoicism of the Japanese people in these dark days is remarkable; with more than 10,000 of their countrymen dead or missing and many towns in ruins, their forbearance is beyond the reach of frantic media hyperbole.

The Environmental Investigation Agency has a long and varied relationship with Japan, reaching back to the early days of our organisation.

Our work has often put us at loggerheads with the country as a political entity, but we’ve never once mistaken the profile and policies of its government for the typical citizens with whom we so often deal, and on whom we so often rely.

One of our senior campaigners was previously active in Japan on nuclear issues; another lived and taught in the country for several years.

EIA’s cetaceans campaign regularly takes our investigators and campaigners to the country; some of them have spent months in Otsuchi and Kamaishi, places which have been completely obliterated, with devastating loss of life.

Our work in Japan would largely be impossible without the assistance of local translators, fixers, researchers and scientists, without the cooperation and help of the typical citizens and civil society groups who go out of their way to aid our investigations.

In many, many cases they have become our close friends as well as allies and informal colleagues.

To all of them, and to all their fellow countrymen, we at EIA extend our fullest sympathies for their losses and suffering in this terrible time, and send our sincerest wishes for their recovery from the destruction and profound shock that this succession of disasters has wrought.

.

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Things are starting to slow down here at HQ, we’re down to just 6 people in the office! Looking back, 2010 has been a very eventful year. I have split this blog in two, firstly, I will review the year and highlight EIA’s achievements. Secondly, and you can find the second part here, we share the fantastic things you have been doing too.

Thank you to everybody who has supported us over the last 12 months, here are just some of our successes this year.

  • Copyright EIA/Mary RiceEIA played a crucial role in ensuring proposals by Tanzania and Zambia to sell 112 tonnes of stockpiled ivory through CITES failed.Despite limited resources we were able to carry out investigations in both countries, gathering irrefutable evidence that levels of poaching are much higher than reported. We published a report and video ‘Open Season’ and presented this evidence at CITES. EIA was the only voice to speak out against the real situation in Zambia and thanks to us both proposals were rejected. Read what Mary had to say.
  • New Chilling Facts Survey, coming soon.We provided evidence to ensure nine leading UK supermarkets reduced their use of climate changing HFCs following our second ‘Chilling Facts’ survey in February.
  • Once again EIA was at the forefront of protecting whales at the IWC. In June, proposals by Japan, Iceland and Norway to be allowed new commercial catch quotas threatened to seriously undermine the 24-year moratorium on whaling. Thankfully, our strenuous lobbying helped to stop them.

  • Copyright EIA/TelepakOur forest team had a major success as the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning imports of illegally logged timber and wood products. This follows the success of EIA’s efforts in the US to introduce a ban in 2008. It is a testament to EIA’s tenacity and commitment that after 10 years of campaigning, the world’s two largest markets for wood products, have now shut the door on imports of stolen timber. Read on.

  • Working with our Indonesian partners we highlighted the illegal exploits of timber barons Ricky Gunawan and Hengky Gosal in a damning report: ‘Rogue Traders: The Murky Business of Merbau Timber Smuggling in Indonesia’. The report received huge coverage, putting Gosal uncomfortably in the spotlight. Read Julian’s reaction.
  • Copyright istock.The Year of the Tiger made history as the highest level political meeting ever held for a single species in St Petersburg, at the International Tiger Forum. Debbie Banks and Alasdair Cameron were invited to the Forum, as experts in the field of illegal trade and enforcement in consumer countries. $330 million was pledged and Leonardo di Caprio donated $1 million, all the press were there. Read Debbie’s comments following the forum.

  • Our award-winning documentary Inside: The Tiger Trade continues to be broadcast internationally and is raising our profile telling the rest of the world how we work. Watch out for more documentaries next year. See the trailer here.

None of this would have been possible without your support – Thank you.

Our blog is in its 5th month and I am sure you will agree, it has gone from strength to strength. We have had nearly 5000 visits in that time and by far our most popular post has been this one. Thank you to all the campaigners to have contributed and all of you who have made comments.

I’ll leave you with the words of Louie Psihoyos, director of Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove

The Cove. Credit - thecovemovie.com“EIA is an amazing example of a small group of individuals using great science and passion to help save the environment … in the environmental movement, EIA is the equivalent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

From everyone at EIA, Seasons Greetings and thank you once again.

Signing out for 2010,

Sophia Cheng

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On 1st November the world’s largest cetacean hunt – the Dall’s porpoise hunt – resumed again.

I was in the small fishing port of Otsuchi in northern Japan earlier this year, with a cameraman and fixer, to film and document the porpoises being landed. It was a depressing and frustrating trip. We were treated with suspicion and outright hostility at the market place, followed around by the police and even kicked out of our hotel once they realised we were there to film the hunt. It was impossible to talk to anyone actually involved in the hunting or the prefectural authorities that are supposedly regulating it would not agree to meet with us.

 

Investigating levels of mercury in supermarket whale meat.

Investigating levels of mercury in supermarket whale meat.

 

On the other hand we were able to survey local supermarkets for Dall’s porpoise meat (we found lots) and get some products tested for mercury and methyl-mercury. We were told in one supermarket that it was a popular local product and we found large quantities in Otsuchi and Kamaishi supermarkets, selling fairly cheaply, as fresh meat or marinated. The analysis results showed that mercury and methyl-mercury levels are high in these animals – on average 2.75 times higher than the regulatory limit of 0.4 parts per million. With up to 15,000 Dall’s porpoises allowed to be killed each year, this equates to around 800 tonnes of toxic meat on the supermarket shelves each year.

Recently, we received the latest official catch statistics for 2008 showing that a dramatic reduction in the catch had occurred – to just over 7,000 Dall’s porpoises. The first year I went to Japan to film the hunt was 1999 and we had just heard then that more than 18,000 porpoises had been killed in 1998.  So this is certainly good news, and progress in the right direction. But we need more information to understand why the catch is lower. Is it just a blip or does it really signal a gradual reduction in the hunt? My hunch is that some hunters are leaving the trade as the market for small cetaceans is no longer profitable, in part likely due to the glut of large whale meat being stored in warehouses across Japan, but also because people are becoming more aware of the human health risks associated with eating dolphins and porpoises.

 

Dall's Porpoise catch in Otsuchi Japan. Copyright EIA.

Dall's Porpoise catch in Otsuchi Japan

 

So our aim is to obtain  more information and we will be renewing our efforts to establish a dialogue with authorities in northern Japan that are responsible for monitoring the Dall’s porpoise hunt.

At the other end of Japan where activists have been camping out in Taiji to try and stop the dolphin hunt, we have seen some small progress this week. A meeting took place on 2nd November between local Taiji officials and campaigners working to stop the hunt. Although early reports suggest that the meeting was somewhat less than amicable, it was well attended by the media which will help raise further awareness in Japan. This is particularly important because the pollution issue has only been rarely reported by Japanese media in the past.

While fully supportive of the ongoing work in Taiji, EIA will continue to focus our efforts on the Dall’s porpoise hunt – even with the recent significant reduction in the catch, many thousands continue to be killed every year and it is still by far the largest cetacean hunt in the world.

Clare Perry

Clare Perry

Cetaceans Campaigner

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Copyright EIA

Clare Perry makes up one half of our cetaceans team, together with Jenny Lonsdale, co-founder of EIA

Since the June annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) rejected the proposal to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland IWC endorsed commercial whaling catch limits, we have been catching up on all the other work that the cetacean campaign does outside the IWC meeting.

There is a tremendous amount of work to do in the coming months and in the lead up to next year’s annual meeting if we are to ensure that the conservation agenda moves forward and aspirations for resumed commercial whaling are kept in abeyance.

Copyright EIA

The Japanese Delegation at the IWC earlier this year

World attention is usually focused on Japan’s commercial whaling, carried out under the guise of so called scientific research. However, whaling in the North Atlantic this summer boasts some shocking statistics:

Norway has killed about 464 minke whales; Iceland has already killed hundreds of fin and minke whales, while the Faroe Islands killed more than 750 pilot whales.

Catching fin whales – the second largest animal on the planet – has resulted in thousands of tonnes of whale meat being stockpiled in Iceland because there is no market. Japan doesn’t seem keen to add Icelandic fin whale to its own stockpile which reached 5,000 tonnes this August. So it seems these magnificent animals have been killed for nothing but politics.

Meanwhile the Icelandic Government is engaged in negotiations on its possible accession to the EU. It has been given a strong message that whaling is not permitted in the EU but this is a significant issue in the negotiations and we are following developments carefully.

Copyright EIA

EIA's first campaign focused on exposing the atrocious whaling that was taking place in the Faroe Islands, a Danish territory, some few 100kms of mainland Scotland. This is an image from our archive.

The hunts in the Faroe Islands are particularly shocking because the Islanders were advised 2 years ago by their own world-leading medical expert that they should not eat any pilot whale meat or blubber due to the high levels of pollutants. This frightening warning is being ignored by the Faroese Government and people.

We are gathering information on the ground to put pressure on these three Governments to end the cruel and unnecessary slaughter.

At the same time, our work continues to develop the IWC’s vital work to address other environmental threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans). From 21st – 24th September, we will attend the IWC’s workshop on ship strikes. Both endangered and more plentiful populations of whales are vulnerable to collisions with vessels and the IWC is working hard to quantify the problem and work with scientists and industry to find mitigating solutions. We will be bringing information on the problem of collisions between whales and sailing boats which can be catastrophic for whales, sailors and their boats – it should be an interesting meeting.

Jenny Lonsdale and Clare Perry – EIA Cetaceans TeamCopyright EIA

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