Japan is facing international outrage after confirming that the country will officially resume commercial whaling for the first time in more than 30 years.
The operation will start in July 2019 after the Japan’s chief spokesman, Yoshihide Sage confirmed the decision to defy the the 1986 global ban on commercial whaling.
Suga told reporters the country’s fleet would confine its hunts to Japanese territorial waters and exclusive economic zone saying that its controversial annual expeditions to the Southern Ocean would end.
The decision has earned quick criticism from world leaders including those from the UK.
In a tweet from UK’s environmental secretary, Michael Grove, he tweeted: “The UK is strongly opposed to commercial whaling and will continue to fight for the protection and welfare of these majestic mammals.”
As well, Greenpeace Japan was quick to speak out against the decision. “The declaration today is out of step with the international community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures,” Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement.
They also accused Japan of timing the announcement to avoid criticism. “It’s clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of year, away from the spotlight of international media, but the world sees this for what it is,” Annesley, said. “Most whale populations have not yet recovered, including larger whales such as blue whales, fin whales and sei whales.”
She added: “The oversight that the IWC was having over Japan’s whaling will now be lost. We won’t know how many whales they are catching, we won’t know how they will report it. It might spell doom for some populations. There is an endangered population of Minke whales off Japan, which is already under threat.”
Japan argues that the moratorium was supposed to be a temporary measure and has accused a “dysfunctional” IWC of abandoning its original purpose – managing the sustainable use of global whale stocks.
“I support the government’s decision” to withdraw, Itsunori Onodera, a former defence minister who advises the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on fisheries, told public broadcaster NHK. “I have attended IWC meetings several times in the past, and I was struck by their extremely biased views. The IWC has become a dysfunctional organization.”
Japanese fisheries officials claim that populations of certain types of whales, such as the mink, have recovered sufficiently to allow the resumption of “sustainable” hunting.
The country ate 200,000 tons of whale meat a year in the 1960s, but consumption has plummeted to about 5,000 tons in recent years, according to government data.
Japan will join Iceland and Norway in openly defying the ban on commercial whale hunting.
It is important to remember that although Japan is now officially returning to hunting whales, they have essentially are just moving their hunting practices from the Southern Ocean to the coastal waters of Japan. The hunting in the Southern Ocean was practiced under the disguise of “scientific research”.
This has led Captain Paul Watson, whom is famous for leading Sea Shepherd on the front lines in fighting Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, to argue that the decision is actually a good move for whale conservation.
In the statement on his Facebook, he writes:
“Why is this a positive Development.
1. Because Japan has never stopped commercial whaling. They have ‘hidden’ it behind the excuse of so called ‘scientific whaling’ since 1987. They have continued commercial whaling despite the International Court of Justice ruling that there is no legal justification for their so-called ‘scientific whaling.’ Now there can be no façade, Japan has joined Norway and Iceland in their open defiance of international conservation law. All three nations are pirate whaling nations.
2. With Japan out of the International Whaling Commission, the IWC can now pass the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. The IWC can now focus on conservation instead of whaling. Japan has been the single greatest detriment to the IWC during its entire history.
3. The Japanese puppet nations will no longer be obligated to vote against conservation and without Japanese bribes, many will simply quit the IWC. Mongolia for example has absolutely no connection to whaling historically or practically.
4. The IWC can now vote to condemn industrial commercial whaling.
5. Japan will not be able to kill whales in the Southern Ocean. It is an internationally established whale sanctuary and the only reason Japan has been able to flaunt the law is by invoking the excuse of ‘scientific research whaling.” Overt commercial whaling is strictly prohibited in the Southern Ocean and Japan has indicated it will quit the Southern Ocean while expanding whaling in the North Pacific. This would mean that the current whaling season in Antarctic waters will be the last.
6. Japan will be able to withdraw from the Southern Ocean without losing face.
7. Opposition to illegal Japanese commercial whaling will be easier. Basically, we will be dealing with poachers. Japan will no longer be able to pretend that their commercial whaling is research whaling.
8. Sea Shepherd’s objective to end whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary will have been met.
The last time Sea Shepherd engaged with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean was for the 2016/2017 whaling season. We sent the Ocean Warrior and the Steve Irwin. Japan countered with multi-million dollar military grade surveillance making it impossible for Sea Shepherd to close in on their operations. Sea Shepherd has been unable to compete with such a massive security investment on the part of Japan. On the positive side, Japan has been forced to expend a great deal of money on security each year to maintain this edge.
Sea Shepherd’s relentless opposition to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean since 2002 has been a major factor in undermining Japanese whaling activities. It has cost the whalers and the Japanese government tens of millions of dollars and saved the lives of over 6,000 whales.
A whaling free Southern Ocean has been our objective for two decades and if Japan moves forward with their threat to withdraw from the IWC and to resume overt commercial whaling, this objective will be realized.”