Published: Wed, July 03, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling After 31 Years

Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling After 31 Years

"Yet during a year where Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thurnberg, and school children worldwide are challenging our leaders to tackle environmental decline, Japan is sending its whaling ships back to sea, within days of hosting the G20 Summit", Dominic Dyer, Senior Policy Advisor of animal-rights group Born Free Foundation, said.

Japan stopped hunting Bryde's in 1987, but re-authorised yearly catches in worldwide waters of 50 individuals starting in 2000, again for supposedly "scientific" research.

Japan's six-month notice to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission took effect yesterday.

According to Evening Standard, The Fishery Agency of Japan has set a strict catch quota for commercial whaling, and this year it amounts to 227 whales which includes 52 minkes, 150 Baird's beaked whales and 25 sei whales.

Activists said the hunts had no scientific value, and Japan made no secret of the fact that meat from whales caught on those hunts ended up sold for consumption.

Last year, when Japan announced its plan to withdraw from IWC, environmental activists had pointed out that the objective of the 1986 convention was to prevent the extinction of some species such as minke whales. The mother factory ship Nisshin-maru and two support boats that used to go to the Antarctic will travel as far as Japan's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone to catch minke, Bryde's, and sei whales.

Japan's vice-minister for fisheries Masaaki Taniai said his country would be "pressed to undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position as a member of the IWC". Supporters say that whales have always been featured in Japanese cuisine. It says whales already face many other threats and commercial whaling could endanger them even more. Whether Japan's diminished appetite for whale meat will reduce its whaling efforts though remains to be seen.

"The resumption of commercial whaling has been an ardent wish for whalers across the country", Shigeto Hase, the head of Japan's fisheries agency, said at the departure ceremony in Kushiro adding the resumption of commercial whaling would ensure "the culture and way of life will be passed on to the next generation".

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While whaling has been a part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years, modern demand for whale meat is extremely low.

The commercial whaling will be carried out by two groups. Japan has blocked all conservation votes for decades.

This means Japan will no longer hunt whales in the Antarctic, as it did under its earlier research programme. "People have hunted whales for more than 400 years in my home town". With Japan gone, we can finally have the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.

There is a fear from some conservation groups that other pro-whaling countries like Russian Federation might follow Japan's example and start commercial whaling again.

The hunts are likely to spark criticism from environmentalists and anti-whaling countries.

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".

"Abandoning its decades-long charade of harpooning whales under the guise of science, it has revealed a bad truth - that these gentle ocean giants are being slaughtered for no legitimate reason at all", Block said.

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