Will Japan’s controversial resumption of commercial whaling trigger a rise in exports from Europe’s whaling nations?
The European Union fears this might be the case, with EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella voicing concerns that Japan’s plan to hunt whales within its own economic waters might lead to more whale meat exports from Iceland and Norway.
After failing to overturn the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on commercial whaling last year, Japan formally announced it was quitting the IWC in January and beginning commercial whaling outside the international governance regime.
The country has sought to conceal its commercial whaling in the past by claiming the slaughter of great whales in the Southern Oceans was being done for ‘scientific research’.
Clare Perry, Ocean Campaign Leader, said: “Commissioner Vella and the EU are right to be alarmed at the possibility that Japan’s change of policy could stimulate European whaling, which is largely otherwise an unprofitable and dying industry.
“In limiting its whale slaughter to its own waters, Japan’s whale catch will likely reduce now that it’s effectively barred from whaling in the Southern Ocean.
“It would be a huge step backwards if whalers in Iceland and Norway are able to counter their flagging domestic sales of whale products by shipping off all they can catch to Japan.”
Iceland’s rogue whaling is primarily driven by multi-millionaire Kristján Loftsson and his company Hvalur hf.
In 2011, our undercover investigations revealed how Loftsson was defying international treaties to hunt endangered fin whales in a bid to create a new consumer market in Japan, exporting the meat to be marketed as a delicacy via a company he helped to establish.
Two years later, we helped to reveal that one of the uses for his exported fin whale meat was to manufacture whale jerky as a dried treat for pet dogs; the Japanese company involved stopped selling the products after learning of the international outcry.
Norway has also exported whale meat to Japan, although tests in 2015 found it contained harmful levels of pesticides. The following year it was revealed that minke whale meat was being used in Norway to feed animals raised for the fur industry.