The Loophole Japan Exploits to Continue Its Whaling Activities

Japanese whaling ships recently killed 177 whales including the endangered sei whale for 'research'.
Monday 3 September 2018
Japanese whaling ships are anchored at Ayukawa port in Ishinomaki. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP

Despite opposition from multiple countries who are against whaling, Japan persists in their whaling endeavours as its whaling ships recently came home with 177 whales.

On 22 August, the Japanese government announced that the 177 whales were made up of minke and sei whales which were all caught during a three-month tour of the northwestern Pacific.

The three-ship mission returned home as Tokyo prepares to make its case to resume commercial whaling at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Brazil next month.

During the latest 98-day mission, the ships caught 43 minke whales and 134 sei whales, the Fisheries Agency said in a statement.

Foreign pressure on Japan to stop whaling has only made conservatives and politicians more resolute about continuing their push to resume commercial whaling.

It is a rare thorny issue in Tokyo’s otherwise amiable diplomacy. “Data that were gathered during this mission will be analysed, along with results from coastal research programmes,” the agency said.

The data “will be presented to IWC’s scientific committee, and will enhance scientific knowledge for conserving and managing cetacean resources.”

At September’s meeting in Brazil, Japan “will propose setting a catch quota for species whose stocks are recognised as healthy by the IWC scientific committee”, Hideki Moronuki, an official in charge of whaling at Japan’s fisheries agency, told AFP.

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The blowhole of a Sei whale can be seen as it surfaces. The Sei whale has been labelled as endangered by the WWF. Photo: Don Emmert/AFP

Moronuki said the proposal would not specify which whale species and how many mammals Japan wants to hunt, but he said the IWC classifies several species as no longer depleted.

The moratorium has been in place since 1986, and Japan’s previous attempts to win a partial lifting have been unsuccessful.

Japan will also propose measures to change the body’s decision-making process, lowering the threshold for proposals to pass from three quarters of members to half.

“The IWC has not been functioning. We should get united to build a more cooperative system,” Moronuki said.

Previously, AFP reported research stating that though minke whales are not endangered and have been listed as species which are of ‘least concern’, the sei whale, which is the second largest whale after the blue whale, is endangered.

TURN UP THE VOLUME Dwarf minke whales make the most incredible sound. The first time people hear them, in an encounter, people can barely believe it’s the whales that are making the peculiar noises they hear. It’s often referred to as the “Star Wars” sound, as it’s sounds like it’s being produced mechanically or synthetically. The noises are so strange that before studies were done, it was thought Australian naval submarines might be making these strange sounds. But really questions have to be asked why they make these crazy sounds? Is it the males or females, who are making these sounds? There is so much we don’t know. It just makes this species of whale so special and fascinating. Dwarf minke whales are the smallest of the three species of minke whale and have very different markings to the Antarctic and Common minkes. They reach a maximum length of 7m’s and are found only in the Southern Hemisphere, where they spend summer in Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic waters and migrate North in the winter months. Although found off the coasts of South America and Africa, the largest known numbers forms an aggregation inside the protection of The Ribbon Reefs of The Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Here they seek out snorkelers and divers and are known to engage with humans for many hours at a time. Several individual whales have been known to return, year after year. One Whale has now spent 11 out of 12 seasons straight with us. For more of my work follow me @seajewlz. Special thanks to Jason Gedamke, for the sound recording.

A post shared by Julia Sumerling ✨ (@seajewlz) on

Japan is a signatory to the moratorium on whale hunting, but exploits a loophole which allows whales to be killed in the name of ‘scientific research’.

It says the research is necessary to prove whale populations are large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.

The latest mission was part of a 12-year project to study the number, eating patterns, and biology of whales that Japan wants to analyse to support its claim that certain whales are not endangered and could be caught for consumption.

It makes no secret of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables, despite a significant decline in the popularity of whale meat.

Source: AFP

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