Japan to Restart Whaling in the Antarctic

Whalers insist their work is scientific, flouting international consensus

A Japanese whaling vessil crosses the bow of a ship belonging to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in December 2008. (guano/Flickr)
Photo: guano/Flickr Action Antarctica 2008-2009 Arne Feuerhahn - Deckhand Campaign Conflict Day Fog Japanese whaling fleet Laurens De Groot - Deckhand Molly Kendall - Deckhand MV Steve Irwin Nicola Paris - 4th Cook Operation Musashi Outdoor Sea Shepherd Simon Avery - Bosun's Mate Storm Weather Wietse Van Der Werf - Ship's Ca Yushin Maru No 2

Japan says it will move forward with plans to resume whaling in the Antarctic in 2015, ignoring a resolution adopted by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that the country should respect a court’s ruling that the program is illegal.

As reported by the Associated Press, at a Thursday meeting of the IWC in Portoroz, Slovenia, member governments voted against Japan’s plans to resume whaling in the Antarctic by a vote of 35 to 20. While Japan’s delegation has argued that whaling activities meet the definition of “scientific research hunts” by providing a database for the resumption of sustainable whaling, numerous critics insist that Japan’s whaling is for commercial purposes.

In March, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to revoke whaling permits in the Antarctic and stop granting new ones, asserting that the country’s whale research program, JARPA II, had failed to fulfill its scientific purpose (download PDF). Between 2005 and 2013, Japan published only two peer-reviewed papers on the subject. 

“In light of the fact that JARPA II has been going on since 2005 and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales,” the court wrote, “the scientific output to date appears limited.”

Despite the IWC resolution, Japan appears ready to proceed. 

“We will be providing and submitting a new research plan in the Antarctic Ocean so that we implement research activities starting from 2015,” Joji Morishita, head of Japan’s delegation, told the conference attendees, adding that whalers would be meeting the strict conditions of scientific whaling set by a UN court. 

Animal protection groups condemned Japan’s plans.

“Additional action is needed to encourage and persuade the government of Japan to reconcile itself to the emerging global consensus for whale conservation, instead of whale killing, in the name of science in the 21st century,” Patrick Ramage, director of the whales program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told the Associated Press.

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