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Japan should think carefully over its whaling in the North Pacific

Japan is still reeling from the ICJ decision that effectively ended its whaling this year in Antarctica. However, Japan’s whalers are awaiting guidance from the Japanese Government as to whether they can carry out their whaling in the North Pacific.

Japan has an established Article VIII whaling programme in the North Pacific (JARPN) taking a number of species. Currently, Japan allocates its whalers an annual ‘research’ quotas for 10 sperm, 100 sei, 50 Bryde’s and 120 minke whales in the North Pacific . It also allocates some 60 of the minke whales to the one coastal whaling company operating in Japan. 

But as its whalers prepare to sail Japan ought to consider the ICJ ruling further. 

If Japan was to undertake this whaling, without giving due consideration to the guidance and decisions within the Antactic case, it could be subject to exactly the same criticism as it suffered for increasing its quotas for JARPA II using dubious scientific arguments.

This would once again lay it open to criticism that it has an economic objective for the programme and not a purely scientific one and so open it up to the criticism that it ‘has not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph 10(e) and 10(d) of the Schedule’.

The Ashai Shimbun of 1st April 2014, quotes Masayuki Komatsu, Japan’s ex-IWC Commissioner, as saying,

‘…the court decision is likely to have far-reaching implications, not just in the Antarctic.

If Japan’s scientific whaling is taken to court based on the reasoning in the current case, the whale hunt in the northwest Pacific could also be ordered to halt,” he said.’

The arguments as to the failure under JARPA II to have evaluated non-lethal alternatives makes the JARPN permit whaling open to the same criticism, and it may be here that Japan faces its biggest challenge. It would seem that, according to NHK World, some in the Japanese Government may share these thoughts.

Any real and transparant evaluation of non-lethal studies will reveal that infomation that is useful to the IWC is obtainable by non-lethal means. Japan would have to engineer the results of any such enquiry into non-lethal means of study to fit its criteria for the research, and whatever way it wansts to twist the results, it will be hard for it to justify the quotas its already taking.

Japan would be wise to suspend all its whaling and think long and hard about the long term viability of what is now an increasingly uneconomic, unlawful and highly disliked practice.