Japanese officials have announced they plan to seek approval by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to partially resume commercial whaling.
Japan is arguing their proposal only covers whale species deemed to be at sustainable population levels and they will “propose setting a catch quota for species whose stocks are recognized as healthy by the IWC scientific committee”.
Japan’s specific proposal will be presented at a meeting this September in Brazil but does not specify which type or how many whales are intended for the hunt. Japan is also seeking for the IWC to change their decision-making process to a simple majority when it comes to setting catch quotas, rather than three-quarters votes.
For the last few decades, Japan has still participated in whale hunts as they have continued the practice through a loophole as they deem the hunts “scientific research”. Japan claims that research is necessary to prove whale populations are sustainable enough to reopen commercial hunting.
Earlier this year, Japan was the cause of international outrage as it was discovered that 122 pregnant whales in the Arctic were killed by them as part of their research.
Prior to whale hunting being banned in 1986, Japan was able to rebuild much of their country after World War II on the back of whale hunting as whale was widely consumed. Today though, the consumption of whale is much more rare as it is estimate only 14 percent of Japanese people eat whale meat
Even with Japan continuing to kill whales despite being banned, political scientist Keiko Hirata suggests Japan continues to hunt whales because of cultural and political reasons. In Japanese culture, she says, whales are seen more akin to a fish than a charismatic mammal. Furthermore, whaling efforts are overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries – a department that has faced little domestic pressure to end its whaling program.