Japan has annpunced it plans on resuming whale hunts later this year in the Antarctic. This despite the International Whaling Commission saying that Tokyo has not shown conclusively that the mammals need to be killed for research.
Japan wants to kill around 4,000 Minke whales in the Antarctic over the next 12 years.
Joji Morishita, Japan’s chief whaling negotiator, commented that the debate about whether or not Japan should be killing the mammals had long since moved away from science and into politics.
“There is no definite conclusion in the report itself, which is not so surprising in the IWC, because as we know very well the IWC is a divided organisation,” Morishita said.
“Because of this division, even the scientific committee is always having difficulty of coming up with some kind of a conclusion.
“Still … we will try to provide as much scientific research as possible and try to get” approval from the scientific committee for their go-ahead.”
Ignoring international disapproval, Japan has continued to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean, using an exemption in the global whaling moratorium that allows for lethal research.
Japan makes no secret of the fact that meat from the mammals is processed into food.
Japan requires no permission from the International Whaling Commission to proceed with its lethal sampling hunt starting in December, since it is up to individual countries whether or not to issue permits for whaling on scientific grounds.
By the end of the 1930s, Minke whales were the target of coastal whaling by Brazil, Canada, China, Greenland, Japan, Korea, Norway, and South Africa. Minke whales were not then regularly hunted by the large-scale whaling operations in the Southern Ocean because of their relatively small size.
However, by the early 1970s, following the overhunting of larger whales such as the sei, fin, and blue whales, minkes became a more attractive target of whalers. By 1979, the minke was the only whale caught by Southern Ocean fleets. Hunting continued apace until the general moratorium on whaling began in 1986.
Following the moratorium, most hunting of minke whales ceased. Japan continued catching whales under the special research permit clause in the IWC convention, though in significantly smaller numbers. The stated purpose of the research is to establish data to support a case for the resumption of sustainable commercial whaling. Environmental organizations and several governments contend that research whaling is simply a cover for commercial whaling. The 2006 catch by Japanese whalers included 505 Antarctic minke whales.
Illustration: “Minke Whale (NOAA)” by NOAA Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons