Minke whale caught by the Japanese whaling fleet

Credit: Customs and Border Protection Service, Commonwealth of Australia

Shameless Japan’s final ‘scientific’ hunt before it resumes commercial whaling

Despite abandoning the international treaty dedicated to the conservation of whales in order to officially resume commercial whaling from July 2019, Japanese vessels have left port for one final commercially motivated hunt in the name of science.

Five whaling vessels from Ayukawa, Kushiro, Taiji and Wada will hunt up to 127 common minke whales under what the Government calls a ‘scientific research programme’ with the stated aim of “optimising the establishment of a sustainable catch limit for common minke whales in the coastal waters of Japan”.

Commercial whaling has been banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) since 1986 but Japan has exploited a loophole which allows whales to be killed under ‘special permit’ for the purpose of scientific research.

The scientific nature of Japanese hunts has been repeatedly challenged and condemned by scientists, governments, the International Court of Justice and the IWC itself.

A dead minke whale being taken onto a Japanese boat

Japan has continued to hunt whales for ‘scientific purposes’

In December 2018 , after failing to persuade the IWC to overturn the commercial whaling ban, Japan announced its intention to leave the organisation in June 2019 and officially recommence commercial whaling outside the organisation’s jurisdiction immediately afterward.

The current hunt is targeting minke whales in the coastal waters of Japan, including the endangered ‘J-stock’ minke whose population is under severe threat from human activities, with individuals becoming entangled in fishing gear and killed as bycatch. The IWC’s expert panel in 2017 recommended Japan postpone the lethal element of the research programme, in part due to concern of the risks faced from human activities.

Clare Perry, our Ocean Campaigns Leader, said: “It is simply shameless for Japan to squeeze in one final ‘scientific whaling’ season before commercial whaling officially commences just a matter of months later, putting needless pressure on a species already facing grave and growing threats from a range of human activities.

“Japan is making an international mockery of science. Having made clear to the world that its whaling agenda is wholly commercial, surely the country cannot believe it is fooling anyone that it needs to kill more whales to figure out if whaling is sustainable?”

The North Pacific hunt follows the return of Japanese vessels from its last ‘scientific whaling’ trip to the Antarctic, killing 333 minke whales, including 122 pregnant females.