A pair of Japanese whistleblowers have told an Australian news program that crew members on Japanese whaling ships routinely steal whale meat for their own enrichment, selling the meat to restaurants or keeping it for their personal use.
If true, the allegations would undermine the official Japanese claim that its whaling fleet operates solely to conduct scientific research, not feed the international trade in whale meat.
The whistleblowers—two former Japanese whalers—told ABC News' Foreign Correspondent program that the whale meat racket extended to the Institute of Cetacean Research, the body that oversees the Japanese scientific research program.
The men spoke to ABC News under cover of anonymity because they feared they would be killed for breaking the whalers' code of silence.
One man, going by the pseudonym Kujira San—Mr. Whale in Japanese—described for ABC News how the racket would spirit the whale meat away once a ship arrived in port:
"First, when the ship returns to Japan and arrives in the port, a transport truck is waiting. The crewmen will then pack the whale meat they stole into a cardboard box. One person carried off 500 to 600 kilograms," he said.
Another whistleblower implicated the research officials in the embezzlement:
"It happened on the container on the bridge. I had to check the temperature every day and when I went in there, there was a staff member from the Institute of Cetacean Research packing something," he said.
"When I yelled, 'What are you doing?' he then tried to hide the package by spreading his arms out.
"It was red meat from the tail. That is the highest quality whale meat."
Activists from Greenpeace Japan who tried to get the local authorities to investigate and prosecute the alleged embezzlement were instead arrested for theft.
ABC reported that the new allegations, if proven, could give a boost to Australia's effort to take Japan to the International Court of Justice over its whaling program.