A waste of taxpayers money. Groups within Japan slam decision to conduct more research whaling

The Japanese government has passed a bill regarding the resumption of commercial whale hunting despite international opposition, and by environmental groups within Japan itself.

Currently, Japan gets around the international ban on commercial whaling via a loophole in the rules that allows the slaughter of whales for scientific research. Japan conducts these so-called ‘research’ hunts in the Southern and Pacific oceans, and much of the meat is then offered for sale.

The proposed new bill will enshrine funding for research whaling into the Japanese national budget despite the fact that demand for whale meat in Japan has fallen and the government already has to subsidise the industry.

The new bill was passed with virtually no debate within the Diet (parliament) and will result in multi-year funding for research whaling, the construction of a new whaling “mothership” to continue research whaling and toughen immigration controls on foreign activists and shun global opinion.

Japanese whaling
Dead whale on Japanese whaling vessel

A statement issued by a coalition  of 12 anti-whaling groups in Japan highlights two primary problems with the bill:

The first is that the resumption of commercial whaling, which is explicitly stated in the bill’s objectives, does not benefit Japan in any way.. Even if Japan continues to conduct research whaling, as a nation Japan  cannot obtain consent from the international community: it is impossible to secure over 3/4 of the votes at the International Whaling Commission that would be needed in order to approve the resumption of whaling.

The second is that Japan’s scientific basis for its whaling program is seriously questioned internationally.

The statement goes on to say, originally, research whaling was designed to sustain itself through the revenue from sales of whale meat. However, due to the decline in whale meat consumption in Japan, the high operating costs of conducting a research whaling program were no longer able to be recovered, and as a result the Institute of Cetacean Research, the body that oversees the ‘research’, became insolvent. It is clear that the whaling industry cannot be economically viable, given the current low demand for the meat. Research whaling in Antarctica is only possible by the government injecting large amounts of public funds.

‘Scientific research’ at first may sound like a good contribution to international  knowledge, but the research program is based on lethal catches of whales. It has been 70 years since the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling concluded. Meanwhile, the environment for whaling operations has changed, and non-lethal research technologies have advanced.

Japan’s scientific whaling has been heavily citicised by expert scientist at the International Whaling commisiion ( the body that regulates whaling), by the International ourt of Justice, the EU parliament and by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - the global authority on the status of the natural world.

The statement concludes:

The new law ignores the current controversies surrounding the operations, attempts to shut out criticism, and is designed only to continue research whaling no matter what the cost - to either the whales, Japan’s international reputation, or to the Japanese taxpayer.

Consequently, with the bill’s passage, our tax money will be spent on these wasteful programs every year, whilst damaging our relationships with otherwise friendly nations, and disgracing ourselves internationally. The Fisheries Agency currently appropriates 5 billion yen annually for the research whaling budget. This amount exceeds the 4.6 billion yen that is allocated for resource assessment for Japan’s entire coastal fisheries. Now even more public funds will be invested, and not only the development of the fisheries industry but also all other fisheries operations will suffer. It has no connnection to Japan’s national interests, and we therefore will continue to oppose this legislation.

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Whaling