While Japan continues to maintain that it has every cultural right to continue its whaling operations, fewer and fewer Japanese ever eat the meat so the island nation has changed tack with the suggestion that its whaling operations are solely for necessary “scientific research.” While the world remains outraged, Japan just keeps on whaling.

Japan Hunting Season Ends With 333 Minke Whales

Flying in the face of Greenpeace and and international moratorium

Japan’s Fisheries Agency announced today that the Japanese whaling fleet had achieved its goals of capturing or killing the 333 minke whales that it announced its intentions to hunt when the fleet set sail back in December of 2015. The announcement made in 2015 what met with international condemnation with Australia and New Zealand especially concerned with the hunt once again claiming that Japan’s “scientific research” claims were nonsense and simply a commercial whaling operation.

This year’s season which stretched from December to, well, today came a year after Japan called off last season’s hunt following strong condemnation that ultimately led to a ruling by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) calling the hunt illegal and in violation of the 1986 moratorium put in place by the  International Whaling Commission. Somewhat ironically, Japan is a signatory to the commission but has always maintained that it has a right to continue lethal research of the minke. “Lethal research” is essentially the biggest loophole in the moratorium.

Equally ironic(?) is that this “lethal research” is designed so that Japan can claim that there are enough minkes to continue commercial hunting of the large mammals.

The problem with this “research” that many have is the fact that all these killed minkes’ meat is sold after the “research” is performed and even shows up in state-run school lunch programs.

Japan abandoning the 2014/2015 season

The move to abandon the hunt two years ago, was likely no more than a public relations move based on the success of groups like Sea Shepard that uses its boats to harangue and generally pester (if not occasionally ramming) a whaling boat. That group boasts quite a bit of celebrity support worldwide and in 2014/2015 Japan chose to go the route of head counts and skin samples or “non-lethal” research.

Despite opposition, this year’s hunt was fairly large. Though nothing like hunts of the past that neared 1000 whales killed, 333 is considereably more than the 2012/2013 hunt which saw 103 killed or the 251 killed in 2013/2014.

While the world has every right to be outraged with Japan’s continued hunt after the year hiatus, in Japan’s defense, even if for self-serving reasons, they did carry out “non-lethal” research as well during the hunt that ended today with its arrival at Shimonoseki port in western Japan.

“Attaching GPS devices helps us study minke whales’ migration routes by tracking them for several days,” agency official Hiroyuki Morita told AFP speaking to its “research.”

But statements like that won’t do much for groups like Greenpeace that clearly believes the hunt to be both illegal and “unnecessary.”

“It is completely unacceptable for the Japanese government to ignore the ICJ’s findings and furthermore, completely unnecessary to go ahead with lethal research,” said Greenpeace Japan executive director Junichi Sato.

While most Japanese “never” eat whale meat, Japan clearly believes it’s a part of its heritage and that belief is championed by a handful of popular and powerful older politicians.

But for how much longer?