The following news summaries are by Jeff Durbin. They are based mainly on information taken from The Asahi Evening News (AEN), The Daily Yomiuri (DY), and The Japan Times (JT).
The IWC annual meeting has closed in Aberdeen, Scotland, with Norway and Japan once again the targets of resolutions. The IWC assembly called for Norway to stop commercial whaling, and for Japan to halt its research whaling, though the language of the Japan resolution was milder than last year. Japan currently has quotas to kill up to 100 minke whales in the northern Pacific and 450 in the Antarctic. A measure to ban electric lances, directed at Japan, gathered 16 votes for to 8 against, but was rejected because a three-quarters majority is required. Japanese delegates won a small victory when the assembly decided to hold a symposium to consider Japan's request that 4 traditional whaling communities be permitted to take 50 more minkes. In other conference news, both the U.S. and Russia withdrew their requests for aboriginal whaling (JT 27-30 June). Four Japanese whaling ships have left for the north Pacific to start their minke whale hunt despite the IWC resolution. The IWC resolutions are not binding (DY 6 July).
A colony of 600 black-tailed gulls (umineko, Larus crassirostris) have nested this year near a town in Akita Prefecture. The Nikahomachi gulls show little fear of cars and people, and sometimes search for food near homes. Nearly all black-tailed gulls in the Tohoku region nest on remote cliffs and islands far from humans. Tsukamoto Yozo, vice chairman of the Wild Bird Society of Japan, says, "I have never heard of anything like this." One expert believes that Tobishima island, a prime nesting area, has become overcrowded, and the displaced birds settled in Nikahomachi (DY 12 July). Reports are increasing of wild birds moving into cities, including common gallinules (ban, Gallinula chloropus), cormorants (u), and jungle crows. An estimated 20,000 highly adaptable jungle crows (hashibuto-garasu, Corvus macrorhynchos) now reside in Tokyo, double the count of 5 or 10 years ago. Last year the crows provoked a thousand citizen complaints to city hall. With habitat destruction in their wild territories, owls and hawks are also being sighted more frequently in cities (JT 25 June).
A several-months old Tsushima wildcat (Tsushima yamaneko), accidentally caught in a net near a rice paddy on Tsushima island, has been taken to the Fukuoka city zoo, and may be used for captive breeding. The Tsushima wildcat, endemic to Tsushima, is on the endangered list with a population of about 100. Forest destruction and the introduction of hunting dogs to the island in 1902 have almost wiped out the wildcat. The Environment Agency and Nagasaki Prefecture have been trying since 1994 to capture animals for a breeding program to revive the species, but have been unsuccessful. The captured cat, sex undetermined, is 30 centimeters long with a 15-centimeter tail, and weighs 600 grams. When caught it was in poor condition, but has now recovered. Officials are discussing whether to use it in their breeding program . Tsushima wildcats live in the forest and hunt there and around rice paddies for small animals like mice and frogs. (DY 13 July).
Japan is considering a so-called carbon tax to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Both the Environment Agency and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) are studying how to implement a tax and promote other emission-reducing strategies. The Agency says that a 2 yen per liter gasoline tax could in turn finance other energy conservation efforts, and enable Japan to meet the conditions of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change, which calls for carbon dioxide levels in 2000 not to exceed 1990 figures. Businesses, worried about a loss of competitiveness, generally oppose environment taxes and instead favor voluntary reductions. But with Japan hosting next year's global warming conference, even MITI, which has traditionally opposed such taxes, may change its mind. Five countries, including Norway, Sweden, and Finland, now have a carbon tax. Japan's fiscal 1995 emissions were 7.2 percent higher than in 1990 (JT 28-29 June/3 July). At this year's conference in Geneva, Japan backed European Union and U.S. proposals to set mandatory targets for carbon dioxide emissions. Environment Agency chief Iwatare Sukio said, however, "it is hard to say what percentage." According to his proposal, each nation's cut would depend on its particular situation. The Agency announced that the 1997 conference will be held in Kyoto in December (DY 19 July).
A planned 1,100 megawatt nuclear facility in Higashidori, northeastern Aomori Prefecture, has been okayed by governor Kimura Tokio, and could start operating in 2005. The governor has instructed Tohoku Electric Power Co. to pay strict attention to safety and provide economic benefit to the community. The Higashidori plant is expected to be submitted to Prime Minister Hashimoto as part of the national power development schedule for fiscal 1996. If completed on time it will be Japan's 55th nuclear power plant; 49 are in operation, and 5 under construction. (JT 20 July; DY 16 July)