Given that a huge chunk of the world and its media have been focused on the United States’ Presidential election results, you’d be forgiven for not having noticed that Japan quietly snuck out yesterday its latest plan to kill more whales in the name of science.
There’s nothing like a big event to cover the breaking of bad news. And let’s be clear, this is bad news for whales, bad news for science, and bad news for Japan’s international reputation.
Japan has submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) its proposal for another 12 years of ‘research’ whaling in the North Pacific, after its previous programme ended last year.
This, to be clear, is in addition to the ‘scientific’ whaling they do in the Antarctic. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world’s highest court, ruled in 2014 that their plan to kill whales there was illegal and must stop, and the government submitted a new plan after taking one season off from whaling.
The ‘new’ plan for ‘scientific’ whaling in the North Pacific presents the same flawed arguments for lethal whaling that Japan has presented now for decades. It is nothing but a thinly veiled disguise for further commercial whaling. Japan has increased its kill quota by approximately 100 whales a year, meaning more than 3,700 whales will die in the next 12 years in the North Pacific, on top of the nearly 4,000 Japan is intending to kill in the Southern Ocean.
Of particular note is the increase in the number of endangered sei whales to be killed, from 90 to 140 a year. Sei whales are by far the most commercially valuable species in Japanese markets. The remainder of the whales to be targeted are minke whales, which will be targeted in Japanese coastal waters, and increasingly offshore by factory ships, in a similar area to the sei whales.
It is clear that the aim here is not scientific but rather to make the current loss-making whaling effort more economically efficient. Catching more valuable whales in the same area reduces costs and increases potential revenue from whale meat sales.
Just last month, the IWC passed a proposal to introduce new processes to increase scrutiny of scientific whaling programmes and ensure that the timing of submissions aligns with the Commission’s two-year cycle. Therefore, the timing of this latest proposal by Japan is particularly provocative, as it intends to begin North Pacific whaling before the next meeting of the IWC in 2018.
With this further snub to international law and processes, the question now becomes what are pro-conservation governments going to do about it? It seems increasingly clear that it is going to require a return to international legal institutions. Despite Japan’s attempt to limit the possibility of a further case at the ICJ, international legal experts convened by IFAW have shown that there are other possibilities. The question is which country will be bold enough to take them?
There is of course a simpler solution: Japan can abandon its plans, which make a mockery of science and harm whales and Japan’s international reputation, and instead embrace the small but thriving domestic whale watching industry.
Japan alleges its whaling supports coastal communities. But responsible whale watching offers a far more long-term solution to support these communities compared to the dying whaling industry.
Mainstream media in Japan is now openly questioning the folly of further ‘scientific’ whaling.
It’s time the Government of Japan abandoned it for good.
Article source: IFAW