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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Fishing, Commercial"

For Maine Lobstermen, a Perfect Storm Threatens the Summer Season

OFF THE COAST OF MAINE — As he pulled alongside one of his lobster pots, marked by a red and yellow buoy on the Penobscot Bay, Mike Hutchings extracted and measured several of the crustaceans that would contribute to his 130-pound catch that day. It was a decent haul but his assessment of the fishing season was grim: “The worst it’s ever been.”

Mr. Hutchings’s catch on the final Saturday in June came as the lobster trade approached its money-making time. With the Fourth of July holiday around the corner, Mr. Hutchings and his fellow lobstermen were supposed to be gearing up for a major payday as out-of-staters, cruise ships, warmer weather and bounties of lobsters, having just molted their shells and been lured into the thousands of traps anchored on the rocky bottom of Maine’s coastal waters, came together in a seasonal windfall.

But like many businesses across the country, the Maine lobster industry, which makes up the bulk of the fishing revenue the state brings in every year, is being battered by the coronavirus, which has crushed the tourism trade that Mr. Hutchings and his fellow fishermen rely on for a living.

With fewer tourists expected to descend in search of lobster rolls, the immediate problem for Mr. Hutchings is simple: too many lobsters and not enough people to eat them. That has sent the price of lobsters plunging.

Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times
Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

The pain is particularly unwelcome for an industry that has spent the past several years caught in the middle of political fights, including President Trump’s trade war with China, looming restrictions to protect an endangered whale species and bait quotas. And then there are the region’s warming waters, spurred by climate change, which have slowly shifted the areas conducive to lobster reproduction away from the coast.

The effect of the virus on the Maine lobster trade is the latest indication of how the disease is upending nearly all corners of business activity and inflicting economic pain poised to last longer than many had predicted. Last month, after groups of fishermen outlined their concerns for Mr. Trump at an event in Bangor, Maine, the president directed the Agriculture Department to provide federal assistance to lobster harvesters.

But that assistance, which has yet to be detailed or allocated, may come too late.

More than 30 million people typically visit Maine each year. The majority come in the summer months for the pleasant air of coastal New England, as well as for the lobster, a high-priced specialty that is a staple of tourist meals.

But the normal influx of visitors has been derailed by the virus, which is surging in some parts of the country, contributing to the general unease many Americans share when it comes to traveling. Further compounding the situation are the quarantine restrictions that Gov. Janet T. Mills, a Democrat, put in place for out-of-state travelers. (Maine has had about 3,300 virus cases, one of the lowest numbers in the country, according to data compiled by The New York Times.)

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_174035634_837a566e-74b9-465b-b044-8c1661351ec8-articleLarge For Maine Lobstermen, a Perfect Storm Threatens the Summer Season Wildlife Trade and Poaching Trump, Donald J Summer (Season) Penobscot Bay (Me) Maine Lobsters International Trade and World Market Fishing, Commercial Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

Unlike previous years, this summer will bring no cruise ships and few “no vacancy” signs. The typical rainbow of out-of-state license plates idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the bridge to Wiscasset is unlikely to materialize.

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Updated 2020-07-03T11:23:23.652Z

For Mr. Hutchings, 66, whose hands are worn from both line and lobster after fishing Maine waters for more than 50 years, the effect of the pandemic boils down to whether he can make enough money to keep his boat profitable.

His expenses include bait, fuel and his crew’s wages. And as the cost of a pound of lobster steadily drops, he has been weighing almost daily whether to leave his harbor in Lincolnville for good.

“If the price gets so low, I won’t go,” Mr. Hutchings said, standing as his stern man, Eddie Hustus, quickly moved herring and pogies into mesh bait bags below his boat. “I’m not going to do it for nothing.”

In the waning days of June, Mr. Hutchings said he was selling the more costly hard-shell lobsters at around $4.50 a pound, roughly half of what he was able to get for them a year ago. In Lincolnville Harbor, only three of eight boats in the cove had lobster traps in the water, Mr. Hutchings explained. The captains of the others were patiently waiting to see how prices shift.

Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times
Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

The economic hit to lobstermen seemed a far cry from Mr. Trump’s declaration on social media just a few days earlier.

“Pres. Obama destroyed the lobster and fishing industry in Maine. Now it’s back, bigger and better than anyone ever thought possible,” the president said on Twitter. “Enjoy your ‘lobstering’ and fishing! Make lots of money!”

Maine’s lobster industry hit its peak in 2016, the last year of President Barack Obama’s second term, with 132 million pounds caught at a value of $540 million, according to state data. Maine’s fishermen sold less than $500 million during each of the first three years of the Trump administration, on par with Mr. Obama’s first term. In 2019, a particularly bad haul pushed the price per pound of lobster to $4.82, the highest since Maine began recording the data in 1880.

After his meeting in Bangor last month, Mr. Trump issued a proclamation directing the agriculture secretary to find ways to assist the lobster industry, which he said had been unfairly targeted with retaliatory tariffs by China.

Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

“From 2015 to 2018, American lobster was the most valuable single seafood species harvested in the United States, with Maine accounting for approximately 80 percent of that value each year,” Mr. Trump said in the proclamation, adding that his administration would “mitigate the effects of unfair retaliatory trade practices on this important industry.”

Mr. Hutchings, who supports Mr. Trump, called the Bangor event “a photo op,” but said he appreciated the president’s decision to sit down in Maine with the fishing industry, which he believed to be a presidential first, at least in his lifetime.

“Whether something good comes out of it, who knows,” Mr. Hutchings said.

Mr. Trump’s move to help Maine fishermen is aimed at strengthening his blue-collar bona fides during an election year. Yet for those affected, no number of presidential round tables adorned with lobster traps is likely to change what could be a terrible summer for Maine’s fisheries.

“I think there’s obviously a lot of uncertainty for local businesses and a lot of concern for fishermen and for everyone else who relies on tourist business,” said Marianne LaCroix, the executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.

Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times
Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

Raymond Young, 55, a third-generation lobsterman who grew up putting wood plugs in the claws of crustaceans and owns Young’s Lobster Pound, a Belfast, Maine, staple, has spent the past several years trying to adjust his business as Mr. Trump’s trade policies changed the market.

Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs on American lobster nearly crippled exports from wholesalers like Mr. Young. Maine lobster exports to China fell by 48.24 percent in 2019.

Canadian resellers have stepped in, buying shellfish from Maine wholesalers, albeit at a lower price, before sending it to international markets such as China and Europe. Mr. Trump has criticized Europe for charging a higher tariff on American lobsters than those from Canada, but that difference stems from a trade agreement the European Union and Canada signed in 2016, which lowered European tariffs on Canadian products.

Mr. Young’s excess lobsters often go to the Canadian freezer plants at the end of the season, but this year, with low sales and the coronavirus, his buyer’s plants are already full, he said.

“Last month we were trading an old dollar for a new one,” Mr. Young said, noting that he did not expect to receive federal aid anytime soon. “If the tourists aren’t here and we can’t ship the other product to Canada because they’re full, it’s going to be a different year as we try and find a home for some of this stuff.”

Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

A good season for Mr. Young means roughly 20 boats from a constellation of nearby towns like Searsport, Stockton Springs and Northport are selling their catch to him. So far this year, he has just two boats, leaving a glimmer of hope that fewer vessels on the water will translate to a smaller lobster yield and higher prices.

Mr. Hutchings’s 40-foot, Canadian-built, diesel-powered lobster boat, Fundy Spray, is one of those two boats. And on Saturday, Mr. Hutchings said he had decided to put the entirety of his 800 traps in the water this season just in case those prices do turn.

Adjusting his camouflage ball cap adorned with “Young’s Lobster Pound” atop his mop of white hair, Mr. Hutchings maneuvered his boat back toward Lincolnville’s harbor.

The wind picked up and the sun was out. The deck was covered in seaweed. Several small crabs scurried among the ocean detritus along with the red rubber bands that did not quite make it onto a lobster’s claw. Over the rhythmic churn of his boat’s engine and the occasional chatter from the marine radio, Mr. Hutchings muttered what could easily have been a Maine mantra.

“If you’re a fisherman, you have to make it work,” Mr. Hutchings said. “It’s what you do.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting from Washington.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Florida Lobster Got a Break on China Tariffs. Then Came Coronavirus.

Westlake Legal Group 06lobster9-facebookJumbo Florida Lobster Got a Break on China Tariffs. Then Came Coronavirus. Prices (Fares, Fees and Rates) Lobsters International Trade and World Market Florida Keys Fishing, Commercial Customs (Tariff) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China

MARATHON, Fla. — Like other commercial fishermen along the east and west coasts, Ethan Wallace had been waiting 18 months for China — the world’s largest importer of live lobster — to lift its crushing retaliatory tariffs on American seafood that had whittled down his profits.

This week, that moment came: Beijing started allowing Chinese businesses to apply for tariff exemptions. But for Mr. Wallace, it no longer mattered.

Tariffs or not, no one in China is buying. The coronavirus outbreak meant the Lunar New Year banquets and wedding parties that feature a fresh lobster on every plate, a symbol of good fortune, were canceled. In several cities, restaurants are shuttered and public indoor gatherings are prohibited. And even if they weren’t, many of the planes that ferry live lobsters aren’t flying to China.

“Boom! Coronavirus,” said Mr. Wallace, 28, after he had steered Piece of the Pie, his 43-foot Torres boat, into the Keys Fisheries marina in Marathon. Although the season continues through the end of March, he and his crew that day took home more lobster traps than pounds of lobster from the Gulf of Mexico.

“Normally I would still be out there fishing for the next 15 days or so,” he said as two mates unloaded wooden traps laced with brown garlands of seaweed that hung like tinsel. Even though the catch trails off near the end of the season, the premium price that buyers are willing to pay for live lobsters that can be shipped to China — $11 to $12 a pound when the year started — was worth the effort.

In January, when the Chinese government closed the live-seafood market in Wuhan, the price of lobster in Florida fell overnight by as much as $5 a pound. Because they will now have to be sold for frozen use, the lobsters aren’t worth as much.

“To not catch very much and have no price, it’s hard to leave your gear out,” said Mr. Wallace, who had already beached most of his 3,200 lobster traps. Between fuel and wages for his crew, a day of lobstering can cost him more than $1,000. “Once they dropped the price down, everybody made a beeline for the dock.”

All around the wharf, spilling over into the parking lot, on the grass and even, in some spots, along the Overseas Highway that traverses the Florida Keys, lobster traps are stacked.

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The makeshift skyline of slatted wooden low-rises and high-rises is one emblem of how far and fast the coronavirus outbreak is reverberating throughout the global economy. Production and distribution chains, travel plans and social gatherings have been disrupted in Asia, Europe and North America. The effects are rippling out to the supply of Apple phones and demand for hotel rooms and lobsters.

“The effect of the coronavirus has been a shake-up across the entire lobster supply chain in the U.S. and Canada,” said Annie Tselikis, executive director the Lobster Dealers’ Association in Maine, where four out of five American lobsters are caught.

Now is a slow time for fishing and sales in the state, she said, so the damage has been limited.

Compared with those in Maine, the annual landings from the Florida Keys are tiny, about six million pounds. But half of the catch goes to China, the largest single customer.

Over the past decade, China’s demand for live lobster — a sign of wealth and status among the country’s rapidly growing middle class — has transformed Florida’s lobster industry. The clawless spiny Caribbean lobsters caught off its coast tend to be more prized in China than Maine’s pincered ones.

Known as dragon shrimp, they could be shipped out of Miami and arrive — alive — in China 40 hours later. As prices headed past $20 a pound in 2014, more and more fishing boats, processors and buyers redirected their operations to sell to Asia. Lobster is now the most valuable seafood product harvested in the state.

“The Chinese market has upped the quality of our life,” said Ernie Piton, 55, who was repairing traps outside his garage. He, too, ended his season early. About 10 years ago, he switched to selling live lobsters directly to Chinese buyers who waited on the dock in Key Largo for his boat and then picked through lobsters as they were unloaded. “We’ve been able to put more money in the bank,” Mr. Piton said.

D&D Seafood, which handles more than one million pounds of lobster a year, has a facility five minutes from Miami International Airport to speed shipments. “The virus has knocked out 100 percent of our live business to China,” said Dennis Dopico, the vice president. When the market shut, he got stuck with about 5,000 pounds in the tanks instead of the 15,000 carried on an average day. “We just got lucky,” he said.

For Florida’s fishing industry, the health scare is the latest in a series of unfortunate events. In 2017, Hurricane Irma ripped through the region, wrecking lobster traps and boats and reducing the commercial fishing harvests, said Gary Graves, manager of Keys Fisheries, one of the state’s largest seafood processors and distributors.

In 2018, a trade feud with the United States prompted China to impose an additional 25 percent tariff on American lobster imports — payback for tariffs that the Trump administration had slapped on Chinese goods. Last summer, just after lobster season started, another wave of tariffs from the White House prompted the Chinese to retaliate by further raising import duties on American seafood. Exports of live lobster to China plunged 42 percent from 2018 to 2019, from $148 million to less than $86 million, according to the Maine International Trade Center.

Maine was hit the hardest by the punitive tariffs. Buyers could easily pivot north to Canada, whose waters breed the same species of clawed lobster.

Sixteen hundred miles south, in the Keys, anglers and distributors still sold live lobsters to China, but prices were down. “The tariffs cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Mr. Piton, the Key Largo fisherman.

He had hoped to make up some lost ground during new year celebrations in China, when pumped-up demand raised prices. “You hope for a good pull right at the end of the season,” he said. “Then the market crashed.”

Mr. Piton lives down the block from Key Largo Fisheries. Last week, a lone lobster boat, Hanna Katherine, arrived with something to sell.

Stepping off the deck, John Greco said he had already taken out about a third of his 2,600 traps, but figured he could earn some extra money since most everyone else had given up for the season.

“It sucks that the price dropped,” he said, as a couple of lobsters scrambled out of the bright blue crates that had been hoisted onto the dock. “But if you don’t go out, you don’t make anything.”

Mr. Greco, 34, and his brother have been trapping lobsters since high school. That morning they had motored out at 5:30, pulling up and emptying about 250 traps throughout the day.

Inside the fishery, a half dozen cutters in white rubber boots and thick gloves wielded long fillet knives, quickly dissevering tubs of yellowtail. Heads went in one plastic-lined cardboard box; skeletons that could be used for chum in another. Nearby, a purple tub was crowded with bonito, often used as bait. “It has a scent to it that fish just adore,” said Rick Hill, a co-owner of Key Largo Fisheries.

The lobsters were weighed in batches, and then dumped into a stainless-steel vat filled with ice and freshwater, a quick way to kill them. Some would probably end up in one of the fishery’s enormous warehouse freezers, which are set at 20 and 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

The final tally: 365 pounds of lobster, worth just over $2,500.

“I’m not complaining,” Mr. Greco said, but noted that if the Chinese market hadn’t collapsed, he would have earned at least another $1,000 for the day’s labor.

For the U.S. commercial fishing industry, the tariff exemption is a huge relief, but because of the virus, it is still unclear how long it will take to revive trade with China.

In Marathon, the season is winding down, but it reopens in August. “Next year’s right around the corner for us,” Mr. Wallace said.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Shanghai.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling. But Is There an Appetite for It?

TOKYO — Japan resumed commercial whale hunting on Monday after a hiatus of more than 30 years, defying calls from conservation groups to protect animals once hunted to the brink of extinction.

Now whalers, who have long depended on government subsidies for their survival, face the much tougher challenge of defying basic economic reality: The market for their product is declining while labor costs across the nation are on the rise.

Japanese production of whale meat peaked in 1962, and the taste is generally preferred by an older generation. The government also hopes to start reducing the $46 million in annual subsidies it pays to whale hunters within three years. The value of previous catches, obtained under the auspices of scientific research in the Antarctic, totaled only about a half to a third of that.

“Will whaling succeed commercially?” said Masayuki Komatsu, a former government official who oversaw Japan’s international negotiations on the subject and now works at a think tank in Tokyo. “No way.”

Industry experts say they expect costs will come down as ships move their whaling operations from the far seas to waters closer to home. Producers also hope to increase the appeal of whale meat by promoting it among high-end Japanese restaurants, said Konomu Kubo, secretary of the Japan Whaling Association.

“The people in charge of sales are targeting whale at places they haven’t up until now,” he said.

For Japan, whaling has long been about more than economics.

Tokyo has for decades fiercely defended whale hunting despite heavy criticism from the international community. The government and local authorities celebrate the practice as a tradition with a long history and cultural significance akin to the hunting of whales in countries such as Norway and Iceland, where commercial hunting is permitted, or among indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.

Japanese people have “mixed feelings” about whaling, according to Hisayo Takada, spokeswoman for Greenpeace Japan. She cited a combination of national pride and politics, as Japanese lawmakers have propped up an industry they see as economically and sentimentally important for their voter base.

Opinion polls by the national broadcaster NHK and Japan’s Foreign Ministry show broad support for whaling, even if people do not necessarily want to eat the meat. If shown a picture of a whale, “most people would see it as wildlife,” Ms. Takada said.

But whaling “has become a sensitive, nationalistic topic,” she said. “It’s not about whaling itself. It’s more about Japanese pride and standing up for what people see as their culture.”

Japan hunted whales under a loophole in international rules that allowed the activity for research purposes. Japanese scientific vessels, financed by the country’s taxpayers, prowled international waters in search of the animals, sailing into the northern Pacific and Antarctic in search of minke, sei and Bryde’s whales. Once home, whalers sold their catch for meat.

In 2014, the International Whaling Commission, a global organization aimed at whale conservation, declared there was no scientific basis for the practice. Japan withdrew from the commission in December and said it would resume commercial whaling.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157286622_3d20c00a-b2f4-4eb5-b6a3-673efcc96ac2-articleLarge Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling. But Is There an Appetite for It? Whales and Whaling Politics and Government Meat Japanese Food (Cuisine) Japan International Whaling Commission International Trade and World Market Hunting and Trapping Fishing, Commercial

A killer whale off northern Japan on Monday. The appetite for whale meat has waned over the years.CreditKim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

For the whaling industry to stand on its own two feet without government subsidies, it will have to find more lucrative markets for its product. But Japanese consumers’ interest in the meat has dwindled.

For Japanese who came of age after the Second World War, the taste of whale — which many describe as a fishier, greasier version of beef — is the taste of their childhood.

As the country built up its devastated economy, the American occupation authority encouraged the use of whale as a cheap source of protein. The meat found its way into lunches at schools across the nation, a practice that ended in 1987. While the flavor stirs nostalgia for some, many others don’t find it very tasty.

Production peaked 57 years ago, at 226,000 tons of whale meat, and by 2017 whalers were bringing home just 3,000 tons, according to government data.

Authorities say Japan still has an appetite for whale meat. Consumption is put at about 3,000 tons annually, including 1,000 tons of imports from places like Iceland and Norway — which are said to produce choicer cuts. The difference ends up in cold storage, with around 3,500 tons warehoused as of April, according to government data.

Despite its stated support for the industry, the government is moving to reduce the haul. On Monday, it announced that whalers would be able to hunt 227 whales from July to December. By comparison, over all of 2018, it allowed a haul of 630 animals from two species.

Japan, which faces a labor shortage because of its aging population and declining birthrates, is already facing difficulties recruiting enough workers to fill fishing boats. Although the whaling industry directly employs only 300 people or so, the labor shortages mean commercial whalers will have to compete on wages with more lucrative and profitable segments of the seafood industry, like tuna fishing and crabbing.

Whaling ship operators think they have a chance. Last week, the chairman of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, Yoshifumi Kai, said the industry would adjust.

“We’ve done nothing wrong, and we have no plans to stop,” he said. “We’re continuing whale hunts that began over 400 years ago. If this generation ended them, we would live with the shame forever.”

The activist groups that have long fought whaling think these industry efforts will fail, and they see the fight over whaling in Japan as more or less over. Sea Shepherd, the group that became infamous in Japan for harrying Japanese whaling vessels, has moved its attention to Iceland.

The potential impact Japan’s continued operations will have on whale populations is not yet clear, according to Junko Sakuma, an expert on the industry at Rikkyo University.

“For the time being, coastal whaling isn’t a problem as long as it’s done precisely,” she said. “We’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case.”

While Greenpeace is still concerned about whales, it is focusing on other issues that have a larger and more detrimental impact on the marine ecosystem, according to Ms. Takada.

“The whaling industry has been ingesting a lot of taxpayers’ money,” she said. “It may survive on a small scale, but it’s hard to believe whale will ever be a daily meal for Japanese people again.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling. But Is There an Appetite for It?

TOKYO — Japan resumed commercial whale hunting on Monday after a hiatus of more than 30 years, defying calls from conservation groups to protect animals once hunted to the brink of extinction.

Now whalers, who have long depended on government subsidies for their survival, face the much tougher challenge of defying basic economic reality: The market for their product is declining while labor costs across the nation are on the rise.

Japanese production of whale meat peaked in 1962, and the taste is generally preferred by an older generation. The government also hopes to start reducing the $46 million in annual subsidies it pays to whale hunters within three years. The value of previous catches, obtained under the auspices of scientific research in the Antarctic, totaled only about a half to a third of that.

“Will whaling succeed commercially?” said Masayuki Komatsu, a former government official who oversaw Japan’s international negotiations on the subject and now works at a think tank in Tokyo. “No way.”

Industry experts say they expect costs will come down as ships move their whaling operations from the far seas to waters closer to home. Producers also hope to increase the appeal of whale meat by promoting it among high-end Japanese restaurants, said Konomu Kubo, secretary of the Japan Whaling Association.

“The people in charge of sales are targeting whale at places they haven’t up until now,” he said.

For Japan, whaling has long been about more than economics.

Tokyo has for decades fiercely defended whale hunting despite heavy criticism from the international community. The government and local authorities celebrate the practice as a tradition with a long history and cultural significance akin to the hunting of whales in countries such as Norway and Iceland, where commercial hunting is permitted, or among indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.

Japanese people have “mixed feelings” about whaling, according to Hisayo Takada, spokeswoman for Greenpeace Japan. She cited a combination of national pride and politics, as Japanese lawmakers have propped up an industry they see as economically and sentimentally important for their voter base.

Opinion polls by the national broadcaster NHK and Japan’s Foreign Ministry show broad support for whaling, even if people do not necessarily want to eat the meat. If shown a picture of a whale, “most people would see it as wildlife,” Ms. Takada said.

But whaling “has become a sensitive, nationalistic topic,” she said. “It’s not about whaling itself. It’s more about Japanese pride and standing up for what people see as their culture.”

Japan hunted whales under a loophole in international rules that allowed the activity for research purposes. Japanese scientific vessels, financed by the country’s taxpayers, prowled international waters in search of the animals, sailing into the northern Pacific and Antarctic in search of minke, sei and Bryde’s whales. Once home, whalers sold their catch for meat.

In 2014, the International Whaling Commission, a global organization aimed at whale conservation, declared there was no scientific basis for the practice. Japan withdrew from the commission in December and said it would resume commercial whaling.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157286622_3d20c00a-b2f4-4eb5-b6a3-673efcc96ac2-articleLarge Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling. But Is There an Appetite for It? Whales and Whaling Politics and Government Meat Japanese Food (Cuisine) Japan International Whaling Commission International Trade and World Market Hunting and Trapping Fishing, Commercial

A killer whale off northern Japan on Monday. The appetite for whale meat has waned over the years.CreditKim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

For the whaling industry to stand on its own two feet without government subsidies, it will have to find more lucrative markets for its product. But Japanese consumers’ interest in the meat has dwindled.

For Japanese who came of age after the Second World War, the taste of whale — which many describe as a fishier, greasier version of beef — is the taste of their childhood.

As the country built up its devastated economy, the American occupation authority encouraged the use of whale as a cheap source of protein. The meat found its way into lunches at schools across the nation, a practice that ended in 1987. While the flavor stirs nostalgia for some, many others don’t find it very tasty.

Production peaked 57 years ago, at 226,000 tons of whale meat, and by 2017 whalers were bringing home just 3,000 tons, according to government data.

Authorities say Japan still has an appetite for whale meat. Consumption is put at about 3,000 tons annually, including 1,000 tons of imports from places like Iceland and Norway — which are said to produce choicer cuts. The difference ends up in cold storage, with around 3,500 tons warehoused as of April, according to government data.

Despite its stated support for the industry, the government is moving to reduce the haul. On Monday, it announced that whalers would be able to hunt 227 whales from July to December. By comparison, over all of 2018, it allowed a haul of 630 animals from two species.

Japan, which faces a labor shortage because of its aging population and declining birthrates, is already facing difficulties recruiting enough workers to fill fishing boats. Although the whaling industry directly employs only 300 people or so, the labor shortages mean commercial whalers will have to compete on wages with more lucrative and profitable segments of the seafood industry, like tuna fishing and crabbing.

Whaling ship operators think they have a chance. Last week, the chairman of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, Yoshifumi Kai, said the industry would adjust.

“We’ve done nothing wrong, and we have no plans to stop,” he said. “We’re continuing whale hunts that began over 400 years ago. If this generation ended them, we would live with the shame forever.”

The activist groups that have long fought whaling think these industry efforts will fail, and they see the fight over whaling in Japan as more or less over. Sea Shepherd, the group that became infamous in Japan for harrying Japanese whaling vessels, has moved its attention to Iceland.

The potential impact Japan’s continued operations will have on whale populations is not yet clear, according to Junko Sakuma, an expert on the industry at Rikkyo University.

“For the time being, coastal whaling isn’t a problem as long as it’s done precisely,” she said. “We’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case.”

While Greenpeace is still concerned about whales, it is focusing on other issues that have a larger and more detrimental impact on the marine ecosystem, according to Ms. Takada.

“The whaling industry has been ingesting a lot of taxpayers’ money,” she said. “It may survive on a small scale, but it’s hard to believe whale will ever be a daily meal for Japanese people again.”

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