Japanese whaling ships set off on lethal mission
Despite having adopted a new method to control their scientific whaling activities at this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting, two Japanese whaling ships have left the port of Shimonoseki to carry out the second phase of the NEWREP-A plan that was launched in December 2015.
However, whale meat dishes are not very popular in Japan. Many locals feel that the meat is too dry. It actually has a reputation of being a post-war food, to be consumed only if there is no other option. The demand for it is so low that it is being used as dog food. So, why do the Japanese insist on continuing with their whaling activities?
One reason is certainly the sense of self-entitlement that Japan feels, as it insists on its right to decide which resources it can exploit from the oceans. Organisations like Pro Wildlife and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) estimate that since 1986 – when the IWC moratorium came into force – Japan has killed about 18,000 whales so far. However, the whole affair has become quite the disaster, as this “self-entitlement” actually needs to be subsidised by eight million Euros annually.
Although Japan has no economic reason to pursue their whaling activities, it nevertheless continues with the senseless slaughter every year.
Using research as an excuse
Nevertheless, the research does yield “some interesting facts”. For instance, the whale's testicle is quite fascinating to examine. The Japanese scientists found out that the testicle of the North Pacific minke whale weighs 800 grammes in spring, and increases to about one kilogramme in September. Astounding, isn't it? This discovery had been made possible through the killing of more than 200 whales in the North Pacific. In addition, these scientists even proposed that the increase in weight may be in preparation for the whales’ mating season. What a momentous breakthrough – surely such a ground-breaking achievement deserves a Nobel Prize?
For more than 30 years, such are Japan’s justifications for pushing on with their whaling exploits. It insists that the slaughter is in accordance with the current whaling moratorium. In 2014, the International Court of Justice saw differently and condemned the hunt in the Antarctic, saying that the scientific knowledge garnered was so limited that the moratorium was not justified.
Japan’s NEWREP-A research programme
The Japanese government submitted the following proposal to the IWC: In the next twelve years, a total of 3,768 sei and minke whales would be killed in the North Pacific. Each year would see 314 killed: 140 sei whales (up from 90), and 174 minke whales (up from 102).
The proposal appears to disregard the fact the sei whales are classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. And although minke whales are not at risk from an international perspective, a subpopulation called the I-Stock is severely threatened off the coast of Japan.
“Japan’s stance is farcical. They have just announced an increase in their pseudo-scientific research hunts in the North Pacific and are now set to continue their whale slaughter in the Southern Ocean despite international criticism, a ruling to stop from the International Court of Justice, two International Whaling Commission resolutions and significant international scientific opposition. If the conservation-minded countries don´t react with the appropriate strength now in order to stop Japan, they will lose all credibility,” said WDC anti-whaling lead, Astrid Fuchs.
In fact, just a few weeks ago, WDC had proved that the meat from the whales involved in the research was openly sold online to worldwide buyers.
“Given the nature of the research, we expect a similarly high number of pregnant female whales to be killed,” said Fuchs.
Unfortunately, it seems that the only weapon against these plans is a diplomatic protest, rather than a sharp sword. The IWC, which has divided into pro-whaling and anti-whaling camps, do not have any concrete authority. In the meantime, Japan will continue to maintain that it has fulfilled its obligation by submitting the 162-page proposal and does not require the permission of the IWC to do what it pleases. Long live the “pursuit of knowledge” – at whatever the cost.