The Japanese government has placed itself at the centre of a potential legal and political storm by saying that it intends to restart scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean despite a new ruling by the International Whaling Commission (IWC – the body that regulates whale hunting), which states that Japan has failed to prove a case for the continued slaughter of large numbers of whales for so-called scientific research purposes.
The IWC’s decision was made following lengthy talks in May and June in the US between Japanese government representatives and scientific experts. During the meetings, Japanese officials tried to convince the IWC panel that there is a genuine need for the research despite the fact that most of the whales slaughtered end up being sold commercially for their meat.
Last year the UN’s International Court of Justice also ordered the Japanese hunts to stop on the grounds that it was commercial whale slaughter masquerading as research.
The IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986 but Japan continued killing whales under an exemption for ‘research’. The consumption of the meat in Japan is in decline and the country’s whaling industry is propped up by subsidises from the Japanese government.
Japanese officials have stubbornly reiterated their determination to continue whaling operations in the region and plan to catch 333 minke whales each year until 2027. If they do so they would be in clear contempt of the UN court ruling as well as defying and undermining the workings of the IWC.