By cynically exploiting a legal loophole in the Whaling Convention that permits scientific research on whales, Japan has slaughtered over 6,000 whales since commercial whaling was banned in 1986. The meat and other products obtained from this ‘research’ is sold as before.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC)has passed many condemnatory resolutions against Japan’s lethal research, calling for it to end. A review by IWC scientists concluded that Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling will not achieve its stated objectives and is not even necessary for whale management. Every Winter Japan sails to Antarctica in order to kill over 1,000 whales for ‘research. Japan also kills over 250 whales each year in the north-Pacific, again for so-called ‘science’.
Antarctic whaling peaked between the end of the Second World War and the mid-1960s when no less than 30,000 whales were killed each year. The whaling industry knew that whale stocks were being exterminated but attempts to regulate the slaughter ended in failure. Between the mid-1950s and late 1960s, world catches peaked at almost 70,000 whales per year. In the mid-1970s Antarctic whaling quotas were around 10,000 whales per season but only Japanese and former Soviet whalers were still operating in the region. In 1985, the year before the International Whaling Commission (IWC) introduced an indefinite ban on all commercial whaling, Japanese and Soviet whalers in Antarctic waters slaughtered around 5,000 minke whales. Although Russia stopped commercial whaling in 1987, Japan has remained determined to continue.
In 1987, with the commercial whaling ban was in force, Japan submitted a research proposal to the IWC to kill 825 minke and 50 sperm whales each year. This plan was rejected as it failed to satisfy criteria for research outlined by the IWC’s Scientific Committee. In fact, the Japanese plan was described as both scientifically flawed and unnecessary. Undeterred, the Japanese fleet sailed to Antarctica and killed 273 minke whales, unilaterally awarding themselves a quota of 300 whales. Since then, the IWC has passed eleven resolutions opposing Japan’s ‘research’ whaling, the most recent at the IWC’s annual meeting held in Berlin in 2003. The IWC has also urged member states to use non-lethal research techniques, as it is simply not necessary to kill whales in order to study them. In truth, Japanese ‘scientific’ whaling is merely a guise in order to continue commercial operations during the IWC ban.
Japan has slaughtered over 15,000 whales since the commercial whaling ban was introduced, over 10,000 of these animals for so-called ‘scientific research’. Japan has included other species such as endangered Bryde’s, sei and sperm whales to its north-Pacific ‘scientific’ catch of minke whales. They have announced that endangered humpback whales will be added to their Antarctic research also. Obviously, these larger whales produce more meat , and profits, than the smaller minkes.
The status of Antarctic whale stocks
Over 1 million whales were slaughtered in the Antarctic last century, seriously depleting 7 of the 8 species of great whales found there. In 1989, the results of an IWC whale population survey in Antarctica revealed that blue and fin whales had been depleted by between 95-99% from whaling. The blue whale population was reduced to fewer than 1,000 from an estimated quarter-million animals. Blue whales were once the mainstay of the Antarctic whaling industry. Over 30,000 were killed in a single season in 1931 and the species has never recovered.
Along with the blue and fin whales, humpbacks, sei and sperm whales were also targeted, decimated and finally abandoned. Only the minke whale, at 10 metres long and around 6-8 tons, the smallest and least profitable species to hunt, is now left in numbers to be of economic interest to the whalers. However, recent evidence suggests that the Antarctic minkes have suffered a serious decline and this is a good reason to protect them from further exploitation. With ozone depletion and global warming threatening this region, the IWC’s decision to declare Antarctic waters a whale sanctuary in 1994 would seem entirely justified.
Japan and whale meat
Apart from immediately after the Second World War, whale meat has never been important to the Japanese diet, contributing less than 1% of protein intake. In 1990, the meat from 330 minke whales killed for “research” was auctioned for £8 million, making the value of a single whale almost £25,000. However, the same whale meat is then resold as an expensive delicacy that can retail at anything up to and over £200 per lb. In 1997, around 2,000 tons of whale meat produced from the Antarctic hunt was wholesaled for 3.5 billion yen -about £20m – and expected to retail at around three times that figure. At such prices, a single whale can be valued at over £100,000!
In May 2002, Campaign Whale researchers found ‘whale bacon’ on sale at the Diamaru Dept Store, Shimonoseki, for 18,000 yen/kg or £102 per kilo, £51 per pound. Whale meat for £158 per kilo, £79 per pound. A whale steak (unfrozen) at a local Supermarket for 630yen/100g or £35 per kilo.
Japanese Government subsidises dying industry
However, 10 years later and the Antarctic whale meat catch is barely selling at auction and huge stockpiles of frozen whale meat in storage in Japan bear testimony to the fact that the Japanese public is losing its taste for whale meat. However, despite a collapse in the market, in 2013, the Japanese Government has continued to subsidise whaling and has recently agreed to refurbish the whaling fleet and finance whaling for years to come.
Campaign Whale demands
Campaign Whale is totally opposed to so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. There is no need to kill whales to study them and the whalers are cynically exploiting a loophole in the whaling convention to continue commercial operations dressed up as science. Campaign Whale is calling for international sanctions against Japan to stop this abuse of science and the commercial whaling ban.
1) Contact Your Japanese Embassy
Contact the Japanese Embassy in your Country urging them to end all whaling.
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