Japan does the unthinkable and resumes whaling for “research”

By: Ashley Gustafson

d6477662-91f6-4f10-993d-ec23a1c8b269-620x372Whaling has a long, miserable history of leading many species of whales to their endangerment or worse extinction. In modern times whaling has been regulated to help protect struggling whale populations around the globe but even with these restrictions many whale populations aren’t bouncing back. That is why Japan’s latest mission of killing 333 minke whales per year for 12 years is so unthinkable. Recently, CNN announced the Japan has sent their first whaling fleet for this mission to the Antarctic Ocean to begin hunting minke whales for their “research”. This announcement comes just after the wake of International court justice ruling and fiercely objecting to raising whaling regulations from countries including New Zealand and Australia. It is no surprise, since historically Japan has rejected calls to cease whaling activities of all agendas regardless of their research goals. Hideki Moronuki, senior fisheries negotiator at Japan’s Fishery Agency told CNN, “Through capturing whales for investigation, Japan is collecting the scientific data and aiming for the resumption of commercial whaling. This official government view doesn’t change.” His “mission” and fleet for his original request were not due back from killing whales in the Southern Ocean until March 2016.


Australian Environmental minister, Greg Hunt spoke out against the requests stating, “We do not accept in any way, shape, or form the concept of killing whales for so-called ‘scientific research.” Also lending his voice to the issue, New Zealand’s acting Foreign Minister, Todd McClay stated, “New Zealand is strongly opposed to whaling in the Southern Ocean. We call on Japan to take heed of the 2014 International Court of Justice decision and international scientific advice concerning their whaling activities”


Going against orders

Sadly the International Court of Justice has ordered Japan to stop its “research” program multiple times including last march after rejecting the claim that the whaling expedition was for scientific cause. That scientific cause was stated as: “to monitor the Antarctic ecosystem, model competition among whale species and to improve the management of minke whale stocks”. Unfortunately, they are getting away with murder through a loop hole in the law that allows the killing of marine mammals for scientific research even though their claims have been denied. Also it is important to note that not so coincidentally whale meat is commonly available for consumption in Japan.


Japan’s new murder plan

Japan’s new research program(in the wake of their failed program proposal above) is scheduled to last 12 years and allows them to kill a maximum of 333 minke whales each year which if you do the math that is almost 4,000 whales during the whole duration of the expedition. Japan continues to justify the slaughter of otherwise protected animals. They go as far as to state through an information sheet for Japan’s Fisheries Agency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs that, “As there is no other means than lethal methods, at this stage, the use of lethal method is indispensable to obtain age data which is necessary for estimating the age-at-sexual maturity (ASM) which makes a considerable contribution to achieving the application of RMP (Research Management Procedure).” This is not sitting well with conservation group Sea Shepherd which calls the Japanese “merely poachers who are breaking international law.” This is true; minke whales are protected by internal law and Australian law. Currently the Sea Shepherd is working with Australia’s government to protect their waters and prosecute this criminal act. Captain Peter of the Sea Shepard has gone as far to state “We will, as always, directly intervene to prevent that crime from taking place.”


Historically, whaling has an extensive past in multiple contexts from commercial to recreational. Whaling dates back all the way to 3,000 B.C. but still is continuing to make headlines today. The traditional term whaling refers to the act of hunting and killing whales of multiple species for their meat, bones, and blubber which all can be quite resourceful in many marketplaces. Whale blubber can be found in many different oil products like transmission fluid, margarine, and candles. By the 17th century the whaling industry was born. With increasing technology hunting methods and thus outcomes improving, by the 19th century whaling was a very competitive business. By the 20th century whale populations were plummeting and the business was booming with more success and more whale fatalities than ever. By the late 1930s it was estimated that more than 50,000 whales were being killed each year. As business grew more and more whale species became endangered.


Lucky for the whales and the sanctity of our planet, people started to notice the great decline and slaughter of these beautiful animals and animal activists began to speak up. With multiple species of whales near extinction facing the prospect of being wiped off the face of the earth forever, groups organizations and individuals a like took a stand. The growing concern sparked an anti-whaling movement that was able to make a change for whales in the wild. This concern ultimately led to the regulations and strict monitoring of the whaling industry by the International whaling commission in order to allow whale populations the opportunity to recover from the rigorous years of being hunted without restrictions. By 1986 the International Whaling Commission banned all commercial whaling to fully protect all marine mammals.

Sadly while this international agreement was signed by several countries, over the years they have disbanded and many countries have begun to hunt whales in the wild again. Some of these countries regulate or like Japan justify their slaughter as “research” but bottom line they still allow whales to be killed. In some countries only certain species (often those thriving) and only a certain number can be harvested each year. Some countries sadly ignore all policies and regulations and hunt freely as they wish. This is illegal but still happens.
While whaling products once had substantial, arguable even, value new resources and technologies don’t require whale blubber in the slightest. Many countries have banned whale meat and it is obvious there are many more sustainable options of meat to choose from if that be your choice. Whaling is obsolete, out of fashion, and unnecessary in the modern world. The only validations are void and opinionated as they are not facts. Despite Japan’s opinion, there is absolutely no reason and no information so critical that killing protected animals is justifiable. Whaling is nothing more than corrupted business. It is not necessity. If a new wave of commercial whaling starts with today’s technology, we most likely will be looking to a future with no whales in our beautiful oceans and only ourselves to blame.




History of Whaling