Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial whale hunting at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC – the global body that regulates whale hunts) as, according to Japanese government representatives, some whale populations have become large enough to justify the killing.
Japan currently gets around the ban on commercial whaling by claiming that their existing hunts are for scientific research, despite the fact that most of the meat ends up on commercial sale and little scientific value comes from the hunts themselves. According to this ‘research’, the Japanese government claims that populations of humpback and fin whales in the Antarctic are recovering at a rate sufficient to allow them to be slaughtered.
It is also reported that Japan will propose to change the decision making process at the IWC to make it easier for this controversial proposal to pass. Currently a three-quarters majority is needed to make the proposed changes, so it is claimed that Japan will ask to amend the rules so that a simple majority would suffice.
Astrid Fuchs, whaling programme lead at WDC says: “This announcement doesn´t come us a surprise. Conservation governments need to stay alert. The ban on commercial whaling is the one of the biggest success stories in species conservation and we shouldn´t take it for granted. In fact, we are constantly fighting to keep it in place.”
Over the last decades, Japan has made several attempts to overturn the international ban on commercial whaling and is constantly pumping money into recruiting new countries to support their whaling plans at the IWC. While it is unlikely that their proposal will succeed, we need to make sure the moratorium continues to stay in place and work towards closing the remaining loopholes explains Fuchs. “Whales face a multitude of man-made threats such as climate change, overfishing, pollution and habitat loss. Whale hunts are cruel and whale populations are far from being safe. Instead of discussing the resumption of commercial whaling, Japan should join international efforts to protect whales, dolphins and the oceans”.