Past eventResearch Event

The Dispute Over Whaling: Understanding the Japanese Side

10 September 2007 - 1:15pm to 2:30pm

Chatham House, London


Amy Catalinac



The meeting will be preceded by a sandwich lunch, which will begin at 12.45pm.

Why is the Japanese government committed to a policy that brings it nothing but unrelenting international criticism in the face of minimal commercial benefit? Not only has Japan refused to endorse what has evolved into a global norm of anti-whaling, embraced by many other countries as early as the 1970s and institutionalized in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) of which Japan is a member, but it has been uncharacteristically bold in mounting a campaign of 'norm defiance' that seeks to undermine it. Arguments that rest on domestic political structures, cultural mismatch, or the degree of legitimacy of the norm are not well-equipped to understand the passion that Japanese officials bring to the dispute and the tenacity of their stance on the resumption of commercial whaling. This paper will outline why the moratorium on commercial whaling was adopted in 1982, describe how the Japanese government responded, and offer an interpretation of the dispute, based on discourse analysis of parliamentary debates and Japanese-language newspaper articles and editorials published over the course of the dispute, as well as interviews with Japanese government officials in charge of whaling and analyses of public opinion polls.

Amy L Catalinac is a third-year PhD Candidate in the Department of Government and a Graduate Student Associate at Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. She is interested in Japan's national security and defence policy, the US-Japan alliance, the impact of domestic political institutions on the making of foreign policy, and ideational sources of foreign policy change. She has written on topics as diverse as Japan's whaling policy, constitutional revision in Japan, changing security policy in Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, oil and civil war, and ethnic diversity and economic performance. She completed her undergraduate education in her native New Zealand in 2002, after which she studied at Tokyo University for several years. While in Japan she worked for the Liberal Democratic Party as a translator and for a Japanese politician as an intern.