“Whale flensing performance” is one of the show businesses held in a bargain sale of local shopping center and supermarkets, or local festivals from 1970’s to 1980’s. In the performance, a flesh carcass of 4-5 m length whale (usually, short-finned pilot whale was used) was flensed by expert persons (contractor) with explanation of an emcee (host of the event) in front of crowd, and followed by a sale of flensed whale meat. The contractor of the whale flensing performance was responsible for preparation, transport and flensing of the whale in a package deal. As the host was responsible for the sale of whale meat, this performance was more profitable than other entertainments to gather customers because income of the sale belonged to the host. The whale flensing performance had become popular to attract customers or crowds in various business events because people those especially live in city or inland areas had seldom opportunity to see real “whale” even if they ate whale meat commonly in that time. However, it died out until late 1980’s when commercial whaling of large whales was banned by the decision of the International Whaling Commission. It resulted in sudden rise in meat price of small toothed whales as substitute for large baleen whales meat and cost of the whale flensing performance became expensive. Although it was popular and memorable event in that time, the record or description of the whale flensing performance was very few in a whaling literature or a cultural history. The Whale Laboratory is gathering the information of the whale flensing performance.
Reports on three gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) found in Toyama Bay and Kashiwazaki beach were reported briefly by Nambu et al. (2003), Minowa et al. (2001), Yamada et al. (2002). Further updates on these individuals are useful for considering the western gray whale population. The migration route along the west coast of Japan facing Sea of Japan is discussed.
In March and April 2014, a gray whale Eschrichtius robustus appeared in the coastal area off Teradomari, Niigata Prefecture, Sea of Japan, adjacent to the estuary of Ohkouzu Diversion Channel of the Shinano river. The whale had been observed during the period between 21 March and 24 April. The whale often appeared very early to about eleven o'clock in the morning. The area where this whale was sighted ranged 3,700m along the coast, 50m to 1.5 km off the coast around the mouth of the Ohkouzu Channel. On April 9, we approached the animal by a boat as close as 10m, and confirmed the narrow and convex snout, the serially bumped dorsal ridge of the peduncle and scattered white spots on the body surface, all of which are characteristic for the species. No barnacle was found on the body surface. The body length was estimated to be about 10m. It seems that this whale was a healthy adult, but somewhat thin compared to the whales observed in the Sakhalin feeding ground. The whale stayed in the area where the bottom was sandy mud, depth at 3 to 7m. The whale was frequently observed staying with the right side down and exhausting smoky mud may be feeding. Behavior of this individual suggests up-going migration while carrying out eating. It suggested there is the recent migration route of the gray whale along the Asian west coast of Japan.
A rare North Pacific right whale Eubalaena japonica was observed close to shore off the west side of Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido (44˚ 15' N, 145˚ 12' E), on 5 July 2013. This is the first sighting record of the species in the southern Okhotsk Sea after the scientific permit catch by Japan in 1968 off southern Sakhalin.
A Spatial distribution of cetacean has been thought to be closely related to marine environment, such as sea surface temperature, chlorophyll-a concentration, sea floor gradient, and water depth which may affect an abundance of prey and in turn may affect spatial distribution of cetacean. In this study, from the data of sighting survey in Tsugaru Strait conducted by Hokkaido University cetacean research group, encounter rate and degree of aggregation of Pacific white-sided dolphin (PWS) were examined for every division. In addition to this, a relationship of a spatial distribution of PWS to the marine environment ware also examined by using generalized linear mixed model (GLMM). From these analysis, it was shown that PWS is aggregated on one or two divisions inside a bay area. Moreover, the division where PWS aggregated had feature low sea surface temperature and low chlorophyll-a concentration. Prevented studies show that aggregation of cetacean related with high chlorophyll-a concentration, however, the result of this study indicated the opposite tendency to these studies. Additionally the aggregation of PWS was seen regardless of the feature low sea surface temperature and low chlorophyll-a concentration. Thus it was showed that in spite of the environment the spatial distribution of PWS is determined in Tsugaru Strait.
We followed the footsteps of Roy Chapman Andrews (RCA) when he studied whales, dolphins and porpoises in Japan in 1910, after being a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s USS Albatross Philippine Expedition, and Korea in 1912. We examined the cetacean specimens that RCA collected and his correspondence, publications, photographs and journals preserved in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New York. At Kii-Oshima, RCA examined eight whales and secured three skeletons and at Ayukawa he examined over 62 whales and collected a large male sperm whale. At Ulsan he studied 32 whales including 23 gray and collected several skeletons. His research activities were whole-heartedly supported by Toyo Hogei K.K. (Oriental Whaling Company) officers and workers at both the head office and the land stations. The company also presented the AMNH with two skeletons of Baird's beaked whale and killer whale. The skeletons of the sperm whale, Baird’s beaked whale and killer whale were exhibited in the AMNH between 1933 and 1962, and the gray whale skeleton has been on exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. since the early 1960s. RCA also visited and took photographs in Yokohama, Nikko, Kobe, Kyoto, Moji, Taiwan, Okinawa, Tosa-Shimizu and the Seto Inland Sea. RCA photographs at Kii-Oshima, Ayukawa and Ulsan are the only images of early modern whaling. All these photographs and his archives are an important resource for future scientific and anthropological studies.