The Japanese Fisheries Agency has reiterated plans to begin the process of building a new whale hunting vessel in 2018 to lead its whaling fleet in the future, a controversial move that is likely to attract widespread international criticism.
The new ship will replace the Nisshin Maru, the 8,145-ton mother ship of the whaling fleet in the Antarctic and Pacific oceans, and its construction is seen a clear statement by Japanese authorities that it will continue hunting.
The fleets smaller vessels normally kill the whales, with the carcasses then pulled onto the mother ship to be butchered. Up to 1,200 tons of whale meat can be held below deck on the Nisshin Maru, however many of the parts of the vessel are over 30 years old now and need replacing. Plans to relace the Nishin Maru in 2005 had to be shelved after protests from conservation groups led to the shipbuilding company’s withdrawal from the project.
The Japanese whaling fleet left port for Antarctica in November to kill up to 333 Antarctic minke whales by next March for ongoing ‘research’. Japan uses the term scientific research to get around the current IWC (the organisation that regulates whale hunts) ban on commercial whaling, yet much of the whale meat from these ‘scientific’ hunts actually ends up on general sale in Japan.
“Many countries distrust Japan, which continues to kill whales in the name of research using massive subsidies,” said Nanami Kurasawa, secretary general of the civic group Iruka and Kujira (Dolphin and Whale) Action Network. “The renewal of the mother ship would attract heavy criticism.”
Last year, Japanese whalers killed over 300 minke whales in the 2015/16 Antarctic hunting season with over 90% of the adult females being pregnant.