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Who speaks for the Japanese people when it comes to whaling?

Policymakers should be careful what messages they are listening to coming out of Japan at the moment. I would argue that they should definitely be careful of the proclamations of the Intitute of Cetacean Research (ICR).

The ICR is not the Japanese Government and is definately not representative of the Japanese people.

The Website of the ICR notes that it was founded in October 1987 as a ‘nonprofit research organization’… authorized by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The forerunner of the ICR was the Whales Research Institute, founded in 1947 as a offshoot from the ‘Nakabe Foundation for Whale Science’ -established in 1941 by the commercial whaling company Taiyo Gyogyo. It’s these links to the commercial whaling industry that have continued to influence the ICR’s programme and statements ever since.

Current reports suggest that the ICR has been trumpetting that Japan will return to Antarctic whaling in 2015.

Whilst the ICR will, of couse, for its own survival, shout for a return to the Antarctic, it would seem that wiser heads may still be looking carefully at the options open to the Japanese Government since the ICJ judgement.

The Japan Times of the 14th April states that, Many officials, even some in the fisheries circle, were long aware of the problems in the so-called research program. But few, if any, had incentive to fight the pro-whaling lobby: whalers, the whaling division of the Fisheries Agency, whaling-related businesses and powerful lawmakers. For them the ruling virtually takes care of what was long overdue, without anyone losing face.”

The Times goes on to say that, Officials generally agree that the most likely scenario is for Japan to withdraw from the Antarctic….Some hardline lawmakers say Japan should quit the commission and return to commercial whaling. But most officials and experts say such a drastic step would undermine Japan’s efforts to promote the international rule of law, notably when it comes to territorial disputes with China and South Korea.

Perhaps as importantly, questions remain about whether commercial whaling would be economically sustainable, given the declining appetite for whale meat in Japan.”