Tomorrow will see Japan’s whaling fleet embark on a three-month hunt in Antarctica in what the government is calling a scaled-down hunt.
Protests expected to continue
While the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission is unconvinced that whales need to be killed for research on conservation and pod management, Japan intends to go through with its hunt albeit one that has been significantly scaled down by the Japanese government.
Last year, Japan sent its fleet to the antarctic for research but did not kill any wales in its “research.” This will be the first hunt since the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s hunts are not truly scientific as the island nation claims. The Japanese Fisheries Agency and the Foreign Ministry issued a joint statement today saying that Japan will catch and kill up to 333 minke wales each year for the next twelve years, a third of what it used to kill. Japan maintains that lethal sampling is necessary in order to properly research the maturation of wales.
Australia’s case and naval plans
It was Australia which brought the case against Japan to the International Court of Justice and is clearly not happy with Japan’s decision to continue its hunt. Australian Attorney General George Brandis, the nation’s top justice official, told the Australian Senate last week that the he was “very disappointed” by the continuation of the hunt. He also told the Senate that he had shared his concerns at “the highest levels” in order to encourage Japan to change its policy.
To that end, if Japan continues its plans Brandis said that Australia may send a Customs and Border Protection Service patrol boat to shadow the fleet. Brandis was purposefully vague as to what that boat would be tasked to do but it’s likely that it would simply look to collect evidence on the hunt which Australia (and others) believe to be illegal.
Japan’s kill numbers are down
Over the last decade, public opinion in support of whaling has waned and the domestic demand for whale meat has also declined dramatically with many groups, both in Japan and in the international community, calling for the Japanese government to stop subsidizing whaling operations with tax payers’ money.
Greenpeace along with Dolphin & Whale Action Network, Friends of the Earth and twelve other animal rights and environmental groups issued a joint statement calling on Japan to stop its whaling operations.
“We strongly demand that the government not start any new research whaling programs, and instead take on new measures that contribute to ocean conservation,” the statement read.
While the International Whaling Commission’s commercial ban on whaling has been in force since 1986, Japan continues its whaling citing a research exemption.