The United Nations ruled just months ago that Japan’s whaling activities did not appear to be for scientific purposes, but instead appeared to be for hunting and consumption purposes. As many species of whales are now endangered, the United Nations forbids whaling except for scientific purposes. This does allow for a loophole for some limited whaling, but whether Japan will try to fit within this loophole or continue its whaling unabated remains to be seen.
The case that landed in the International Court of Justice and established that Japan’s activities did not, in fact, meet the scientific purpose requirement. As such, the ICJ called for a ban on Japanese whaling, at least in so far as it went beyond any scientific purpose.
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Japan looking to resume whaling
Japan actually abided by the ICJ’s ruling this past March. Now, the Japanese government is looking to resume whaling but it appears that at least for now the government will work harder to keep whaling activities within the more narrow confines of “scientific research.” Even those whales killed for scientific purposes can still be consumed.
Under the previous JARPA II program, the Japanese government harvested some 3,600 whales. Through the program the government did indeed conduct some scientific research on the whales, but the court ruled that the amount of research performed simply did not justify the number of whales killed. As such it was in violation of the whaling ban.
Most likely, Japan will reduce the number of whales killed per year, and will also look to ramp up scientific output. This will make it easier for the country to meet the requirements of the court system and should still ensure a supply of whale meat to the country, even if restricted.
Japan not the only whaling country
Despite the fact that Japan finds itself frequently in headlines over whaling, it is not the only nation to engage in such activities. In fact, both Iceland and Norway refused to sign the UN moratorium on reducing whaling. Both countries still actively harvest whale. Japan, however did sign the agreement in 1986.
Both Norway and Iceland hunt whales in large numbers. The Norwegian government allows for as many as a 1,000 whales to be killed in a year, though in recent years whalers have been unable to fill this quota. Frequently, breeding age females are being captured, which is reducing the whale population. Iceland harvests fewer whales, though hundreds are still taken each year.