(c) Aqqa Rosing-Asvid

Japan’s move to kill fin whales is a ‘desperate effort’ to prop up a destructive, outdated industry

Japan is to expand its rogue whaling to hunt threatened fin whales, a move condemned by EIA as “an appalling step backwards”.

The Government of Japan announced today (9 May) that it is to add threatened fin whales to its list of commercial whaling species.

The country formally quit the International Whaling Commission (IWC) from June 2019, effectively becoming a rogue whaling nation to embark on commercial whaling in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Japanese catcher ship Yushin Maru after harpooning a Minke whale.

A minke whale harpooned by a Japanese whaler (c) Australia Customs Service

EIA Senior Ocean Adviser Clare Perry said: “This is an appalling step backwards and the latest desperate effort by the Government of Japan to stimulate an almost non-existent consumer demand for whale meat in Japan, in order to justify having built a new whale-killing factory ship, at taxpayers’ expense, which could tie Japan into decades more of this destructive, unsustainable, inhumane and outdated industry.

“Fin whales are one of Earth’s great carbon capturers and should be fully protected, not least so that they can continue to fulfil their critical role in the marine environment.”

The global population of fin whales is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature while, according to the IWC, the status of North Pacific fin whales is unknown. Like all cetaceans, fin whales are threatened by multiple human-caused threats to the marine environment, including climate change, chemical and plastic pollution, fisheries bycatch and ship strikes.

“Japan now proposes to kill the second largest animal on the planet, despite the global ban on commercial whaling and the nation’s legal duty to cooperate with the IWC, mandated by customary international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” added Perry.

With no reliable data on fin whale population numbers, EIA believes it is impossible for Japan to credibly calculate a ‘sustainable’ catch quota, particularly given growing and unpredictable threats to their marine environment and the generally depleted status of fin whales thanks to the shameful history of commercial whaling.

Almost 50,000 fin whales were hunted in the North Pacific prior to the global moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.