Despite an international court ruling ordering it to stop and pressure from anti-whaling nations around the world, Japan has announced that it’s working on plans to resume whaling in the Antarctic Ocean next year.
Even with a global moratorium on commercial whaling that was put in place in 1986, until this year Japan has continued slaughtering fin, minke and humpback whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary using a loophole that allows for lethal scientific research. Anti-whaling advocates have long argued that Japan has been using this loophole as a cover for commercial whaling.
In March, whales won a huge victory when the International Court of Justice in the Hague issued a long awaited ruling that ultimately ordered Japan to end its JARPA II scientific whaling program and refrain from issuing any permits or licenses in the future.
Among other issues, the court found that Japan had no justification for the quota of whales it was setting every year, had failed to consider non-lethal alternatives and that its research program fell seriously short on science.
Unfortunately, two other hunts have still taken place and it looks like Japan is going to attempt to bypass this ruling too to get its hands on whales from the Southern Ocean. Initial fears that even with the court ruling Japan would overhaul its whaling program and try again became a reality when officials announced Wednesday that it plans to start hunting in the Antarctic again next year.
In June, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked outrage when he announced that the country was aiming to start lethal research whaling to learn about whale populations so it could resume commercial whaling, while defending the practice as part of Japanese culture.
An official from the Japan Fisheries Agency told the AFP that now they will be working to collect “data necessary to calculate the number of whale catch allowed (once commercial whaling resumes),” and “construct a model of the Antarctic Ocean ecosystem,” adding that they will only be targeting minke whales now.
The Fisheries Agency hasn’t decided how many whales it intends to kill, but it plans to submit a modified version of its program to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) later this month.
The move is likely to be met with opposition, especially from countries including Australia and New Zealand, which challenged Japan in court. Officials from the U.S. have already spoken out about whaling and dolphin drives in the past and are now urging Japan to reconsider.
“We continue to view lethal scientific research as unnecessary in modern whale conservation and management. We encourage Japan to take this view into account when developing future research programs,” an official from the State Department told Kyodo News on the condition of anonymity.
The continued subsidies to whalers and dwindling demand for whale meat should be enough to prove slaughtering whales is neither a morally or economically smart move. Hopefully, anti-whaling nations and members of the IWC will say enough is enough.
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