Japan’s Decision to Resume Whale Hunting Met with Heavy Criticism
The Japanese Fisheries Agency will resume whale hunting in Antarctica in the 2015 to 2016 season, ignoring a ruling from the International Court of Justice from last year, which accused the country of using its supposed research-based hunting as a cover for commercial whaling.
The ICJ decision did force Japan to cancel most of its whaling expeditions for last year, but the country is set to begin whale hunting once again, under another research-based plan. The new whaling guidelines will cut its typical annual minke whale catch by two-thirds to 333 whales, which Japan considers appropriate for scientific research.
Last year, the International Whaling Commission rejected a proposal to resume hunting on the grounds that its lethal sampling would not actually help calculate the population size necessary to resume sustainable hunting in the Antarctic, as Japan’s proposal suggested.
The consumption of whale meat is not uncommon in Japan. The country has resisted efforts to classify whale species as endangered. Meanwhile, officials in Australia, which shares the Southern Ocean with Antarctica, have slammed Japan for its decision. The officials argue that it “cannot unilaterally decide” whether it has met the appropriate research standards for whale hunting set by the International Whaling Committee.
“These whales are not being killed for scientific purposes and Japan’s activities should cease immediately,” said Mark Butler, Australia’s Shadow Minister for the Environment. “Japan is a friend of Australia and the government should be taking every reasonable step to make Australia’s strong views on this matter known.” The hunting would take place in a region of the Southern Ocean that Australia controls as a whale sanctuary, which is not recognized by Japan.
Earlier this month, an Australian federal court found a Japanese whaling company guilty of ignoring an order to stop killing whales within Australia’s whale sanctuary in spite of its prior agreement to halt whale hunting, resulting in a million-dollar fine.