Japanese whaling ships set off on lethal mission
Despite having adopted a new method to control their scientific whaling
activities at this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC)
meeting, two Japanese whaling ships have left the port of Shimonoseki
to carry out the second phase of the NEWREP-A plan that was launched in
However, whale meat dishes are not very popular in Japan. Many locals
feel that the meat is too dry. It actually has a reputation of being a
post-war food, to be consumed only if there is no other option. The
demand for it is so low that it is being used as dog food.
So, why do
the Japanese insist on continuing with their whaling activities?
One reason is certainly the sense of self-entitlement that Japan feels,
as it insists on its right to decide which resources it can exploit
from the oceans. Organisations like Pro Wildlife and Whale and Dolphin
Conservation (WDC) estimate that since 1986 – when the IWC moratorium
came into force – Japan has killed about 18,000 whales so far. However,
the whole affair has become quite the disaster, as this
“self-entitlement” actually needs to be subsidised by eight million
Although Japan has no economic reason to pursue their whaling
activities, it nevertheless continues with the senseless slaughter
Using research as an excuse
Nevertheless, the research does yield “some interesting facts”. For
instance, the whale's testicle is quite fascinating to examine. The
Japanese scientists found out that the testicle of the North Pacific
minke whale weighs 800 grammes in spring, and increases to about one
kilogramme in September. Astounding, isn't it? This discovery had been
made possible through the killing of more than 200 whales in the North
Pacific. In addition, these scientists even proposed that the increase
in weight may be in preparation for the whales’ mating season. What a
momentous breakthrough – surely such a ground-breaking achievement
deserves a Nobel Prize?
For more than 30 years, such are Japan’s justifications for pushing on
with their whaling exploits. It insists that the slaughter is in
accordance with the current whaling moratorium. In 2014, the
International Court of Justice saw differently and condemned the hunt
in the Antarctic, saying that the scientific knowledge garnered was so
limited that the moratorium was not justified.
Japan’s NEWREP-A research programme
The Japanese government submitted the following proposal to the IWC: In
the next twelve years, a total of 3,768 sei and minke whales would be
killed in the North Pacific. Each year would see 314 killed: 140 sei
whales (up from 90), and 174 minke whales (up from 102).
The proposal appears to disregard the fact the sei whales are
classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
And although minke whales are not at risk from an international
perspective, a subpopulation called the I-Stock is severely threatened
off the coast of Japan.
“Japan’s stance is farcical. They have just announced an increase in
their pseudo-scientific research hunts in the North Pacific and are now
set to continue their whale slaughter in the Southern Ocean despite
international criticism, a ruling to stop from the International Court
of Justice, two International Whaling Commission resolutions and
significant international scientific opposition. If the
conservation-minded countries don´t react with the appropriate strength
now in order to stop Japan, they will lose all credibility,” said WDC
anti-whaling lead, Astrid Fuchs.
In fact, just a few weeks ago, WDC had proved that the meat from the
whales involved in the research was openly sold online to worldwide
“Given the nature of the research, we expect a similarly high number of pregnant female whales to be killed,” said Fuchs.
Unfortunately, it seems that the only weapon against these plans is a
diplomatic protest, rather than a sharp sword. The IWC, which has
divided into pro-whaling and anti-whaling camps, do not have any
concrete authority. In the meantime, Japan will continue to maintain
that it has fulfilled its obligation by submitting the 162-page
proposal and does not require the permission of the IWC to do what it
pleases. Long live the “pursuit of knowledge” – at whatever the cost.