Sunday, 13 October, 2019

Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling After Decades of Slaughtering Whales 'for Science'

Japan has hunted whales for centuries and the meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post World War II years when the country was desperately poor Japan to commercially hunt 227 whales this year
Sandra Phillips | 03 July, 2019, 18:41

Yet that hadn't stopped Japan continuing to kill whales under what's been widely criticised as a guise for commercial whaling.

Japan suspended commercial whaling activities in 1988 and instead began research whaling.

"This means that Japan is now openly declaring their illegal whaling activities".

Though Japan has pledged to use IWC-approved methods for killing whales, Humane Society International said there are no humane ways to kill a whale and that as slow breeding creatures who lead long lives, whales are "extremely vulnerable" to over-exploitation. So it left the body, effective July 2019.

In addition, this announcement is also due to lack of time to prepare the fleet: hunting permits issued by the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture after the establishment of new quotas in late February arrived too late. "But the starting date is subject to decisions of the whalers, weather and other conditions".

Whaling is a small industry in Japan, employing around 300 people.

Because commercial whaling, supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (from a whaling region), will be restricted to Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Kushiro port in Hokkaido boasted the nation's largest catch of whales in coastal whaling from 1952 to 1961. From 1985 to 2017, Japanese vessels caught and killed almost 17,000 whales, whose meat often ended up for sale in stores and restaurants after any research had concluded.

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Patrick Ramage, director of marine conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare told AFP "What we are seeing is the beginning of the end of Japanese whaling".

It's not clear if any country would try to bring Japan to court over this - in its defence, Japan might argue that for years it did try to co-operate within the IWC without any results.

Even if there were to be a ruling or injunction against Tokyo, there'd be no mechanism to enforce it. Some environmentalists have argued that the resumption of whaling will decrease as both its consumption and availability will be hampered.

The allotted species targeted in commercial hunting are 171 mink whales, 25 sei whales and 187 Bryde's whales.

The agency allows only minke, Bryde's and sei whales to be caught. The humpback whale is one example of successful recovery, but species such as the northern right whale have never recovered from centuries of whaling and are in critically low numbers.

In fact, some defenders of whaling argue that whale meat has a smaller carbon footprint than pork or beef.

Many in the city were eager to see commercial whaling revived. "Japan leaving the IWC and defying global law to pursue its commercial whaling ambitions is renegade, retrograde, and myopic, it is undermining its worldwide reputation for an industry whose days are so clearly numbered, to produce a product for which demand has plummeted", Block said.

Iceland caught only 17 whales, while Norway hunted 432 in the 2017-2018 season, way below their catch quota of 378 and 1,278 respectively, according to the IWC.

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