Japan is Going to Start Whaling in the Antarctic Again

Despite a United Nations court ruling that Japan’s whaling operations in the Antarctic are unlawful and must stop, Japan has announced it will resume its “research” operations as of this December.

Last year Care2 reported on how the United Nations top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), rejected Japan’s assertions that its whaling operations in the Antarctic were lawful under exemptions to an international moratorium on whaling that allow limited whaling for scientific research. The Japanese program, known as JARPA II allowed Japan to kill just under 1,000 whales per year, was deemed by the ICJ too broad and aggressive to be a research mission.

Japan signaled that even though it strongly disagreed with the order, the country would respect the order until it had examined its options. Shortly after the ruling we discussed how Japan could resume whaling operations again, essentially by coming up with a new whaling plan that, at least on the surface, appears to conform to regulations.

Now, with a statement announcing that Japan will resume its operations, that is precisely what Japan appears to have done. Japan has submitted a “revised” whaling operation plan to the relevant authorities (more on that below), with an official is quoted as saying: “As we seek to resume commercial whaling, it is crucial to get information as to whales’ migration, reproductive rates and the age pyramid of the population for setting catch quotas.”

According to the BBC, which has a translation of the official press release here, the hunt will allow for the the capture of 333 Antarctic minke whales.  It means a reduction of about 60 percent on the total capture of minke whales compared to Japan’s previous figures. This plan will extend for the next 12 years. Japan has also announced that it wants to conduct “non-lethal” research, including using what the BBC describes as “sighting surveys and the collection of biopsy samples.” It’s worth noting here that Japan had previously looked unfavorably on non-lethal research, saying it needed to kill the whales to gather data, so this stated use of non-lethal research seems, at least on the surface, to be a small step in the right direction.

Still, the fact that four whaling ships, including Japan’s infamous Nisshin Maru, will conduct lethal research will disappoint both campaigners and Australia’s government, the latter of which brought the suit against Japan in the UN court. In its ruling the ICJ said that Japan had in no way proved the need for lethal research, and Australia has accused Japan of using these research missions as a way to fuel the whale by-product market.

ABC reports that Australia’s ministers have said that they will take this matter to the highest levels of Japanese government in order to have Japan reconsider.

“We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called ‘scientific research,’” the Guardian quotes Australian environment minister Greg Hunt as saying. “There is no need to kill whales in the name of research. Non-lethal research techniques are the most effective and efficient method of studying all cetaceans.”

Should that fail, Australia has said it will consider taking more overt action and actually sending a Customs and Border Protection Service patrol boat to shadow Japan’s operations. While the exact purpose of this hasn’t been made clear, it’s likely the boats would be there to keep Japanese whaling ships true to their word and, should it be necessary, gather evidence of potentially illegal operations such as whaling outside of stated bounds.

Japan has said that it will resume operations as of December. Australia is also taking exception to the fact that Japan has moved unilaterally to resume whaling operations instead of waiting for the official go ahead from the international oversight committee. That in itself is troubling in a wider political sense and may cause international bodies to issue further condemnation.

Japan’s whaling byproduct markets, including whale meat and artifacts made from whale bone, have been in decline in recent years as Japanese citizens move away from the government’s maintained political line that the lethal research is necessary and the products are part of Japan’s culture. What seems clear with this announcement however is that the government is keen to stick to its stance, while the international community appears poised to continue to pressure Japan over what it sees as completely unnecessary lethal whaling practices. This is a set-back, but it is by no means the end of the fight.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

64 comments

Mari S.
Mari S2 years ago

It's shameful, sadistic, horrific, needless, immoral, merciless, cruel --- LET THE WHALES LIVE, for the sake of God!

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Toyota, Datsun, Mitsubishi, Nissan, etc.. nobody should buy Japanese cars. Nobody should buy Japanese anything. What those monsters are selling is soaked with the blood of the world.

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

This is not the only crime that disgusting evil Japan is doing. They send their companies overseas to do illegal logging, they are the covert center for the illegal ivory trade, they are massively raping the oceans and refuse to scale down their mission to drive Bluefin tuna to extinction. The list of Japan's crimes would fill a book. What evil Japan needs is another Hiroshima or tidal wave. After all they refuse to admit they mass murdered 30 million people in World War II, and they have elected a government of fascists.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

There needs to be a worldwide boycott of Japanese products, at the very least during the whaling season. Money talks even if they can ignore world opinion.

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Thomas G.
Thomas G2 years ago

What good is the UN if it cannot enforce its own rulings?? Boycott Japanese goods until they get the message

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Kamia T.
Kamia T2 years ago

The only solution to Japanese whaling is an economic boycott of all they produce so extensive that they feel the pinch and bring pressure to bear on these galoots.

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Lynne Buckley
Lynne Buckley2 years ago

There isn't any justification to kill whales.

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Terri S.
Terri S2 years ago

Apparently, Japan needs some adult leadership. I feel that they continue to kill whales just to spite the rest of the world. Like telling a little kid "no" and they continue to do it just to see how far they can get.

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Fred L.
Fred L2 years ago

I don't understand how Japan, Norway, Iceland and Denmark (Faroe Islands) can justify killing whales. They appear to be relatively advanced and civilized, yet they continue this cruel slaughter. The majority of their own citizens shun whale meat, so WTF is the logic here? SMMFH.

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