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Icelandic hunting vessels in port

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Japanese government adds fin whales to its kill list

3 fin whales
Wild and free, as they should be.

Japan is set to include fin whales on a list of whale species that can be commercially hunted.

This move could impact on the future of the fin whaling industry in Iceland where lots of meat is exported from to Japan.

The Japanese government announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (the global body that regulates whale hunting) five years ago so that it could openly carry on killing whales for profit

A government spokesperson said they will continue to promote whaling and that whales are important food resources and should be sustainably utilised.

But the fact remains that whale meat consumption in Japan is dwindling to a point where, in 2020, the Japanese government subsidised its struggling whaling industry with over 5 billion Yen (nearly £40m).

Past efforts to increase consumption have included putting the meat into school lunches, promotion of whale meat recipes and the creation of a website to showcase where to dine out on the meat. But lack of demand has meant that it ends up in dog food.

The whaling industry in Japan promotes the misconception that Japanese people have been eating whale meat for thousands of years, and that they have a whale-eating culture. In fact, eating whale meat only became commonplace after food shortages during and after the Second World War. Opinion polls have found that up to 95% of Japanese people now very rarely or never eat whale meat, which has also been shown to be toxic.

Whale hunting is cruel with many whales taking a long time to die after being shot with grenade-tipped harpoons that are often fired inaccurately from constantly moving ships.

Japan caught and slaughtered nearly 300 whales last year, including minke, Bryde’s and sei whales.

This news from Japan comes on the eve of the launch of the Kangei Maru, a new whaling vessel that will have significantly better freezing and storage technology and will also be able to process whale meat directly on board.

The eye-watering cost of building the new, ultra-modern whaling ship is estimated to be around 7.5 billion yen (50 million dollars). The environmental cost in terms of whales cruelly slaughtered, and their ability to help fight climate breakdown by keeping the ocean healthy, will also be huge.