Last Tuesday Japan informed it killed 177 whales (43 minke whales and 134 sei whales) off its northeast coast in an annual hunt (from 14th of June to last Tuesday). According to country fisheries agency, to kill the whales were only three ships.
Japan is a signatory to the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) moratorium on hunting, but since years hides behind the exploits of a loophole which allows whales to be killed for science. Agency official Kohei Ito explained this killing was made in the name of scientific research: studies are “necessary to estimate the precise number of (sustainable) catches as we look to restart commercial whaling”. He added that 407 sei whales and 61 minke whales were spotted in observational research. The truth is that the signatories to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling never admitted the scientific exemption clause in the treaty to support commercial catches and the market for whale meat continues to decline in Japan.
Since many years environmental agencies and international authorities have been trying to stop this massacre. In 2014 the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Tokyo to end a regular hunt in the Antarctic waters, saying the project did not meet conventional scientific standards. Kitty Block, president of Animal rights charity Humane Society International, said: “My heart sinks each time the Japanese fleet returns to port with these magnificent animals rendered into blocks of meat pre-packed for the super-markets”. “Japan continues to wrap its whaling activities in the disguise of science and uses extraordinary sophistry to try to confuse the global public. But make no mistake, this is about killing whales for commercial purposes, something clearly prohibited by international law”.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2014 rejected Japan’s assertions and ordered an immediate halt to Japan’s other scientific whaling program in the Southern Ocean. Therefore Japan cancelled its 2014-15 hunt. But one year later, in 2015, it started again affirming the new fishing was based on a “genuinely scientific” scope. Japan’s fisheries agency submitted a plan to the IWC to capture 304 whales per year in the north-western Pacific between the 2017 and 2028 fiscal years. “The International Whaling Commission has not asked for this research, and its Scientific Committee has criticised the North Pacific research program” said Block. Tokyo claims it is trying to prove the whale population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting for a traditional source of food. And this even if consumers demand for whale meat, in Japan, has declined significantly over the years and foreign pressure to stop whaling, up to now nothing has been able to arrest this practice.
Every year government-sponsored fleet trawls again the world’s oceans to kill whales as a meat-gathering exercise. On April 2017, 42 International Whaling Commission (IWC) signatory nations adopted a resolution calling on Japan to abide by the ICJ ruling.
An U.S. Congress Representative Matt Gaetz, R-Fla is advancing a resolution to urge the United States to do more to establish itself as a true global leader in whale conservation and protection, by expressing the strongest possible opposition to commercial whaling and by confronting Japan for its wrongdoing. Despite this the fact that global public opinion, with few exceptions, roundly condemns and disapproves of Japan’s flagrant disregard for international law and comity between nations, fishery of what is not fish goes on.
Also published on Medium.