Japan’s Fisheries Agency has announced plans to hunt whales off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido in just a few days’ time for research purposes.
Up to 51 minke whales could be killed during the hunts, which the Fisheries Agency said would contribute to resource management by looking into whale’s ecology through analysis of stomach contents and organs.
Japanese ‘research hunts’ like this one have drawn stiff criticism from the international community. In March 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague ordered Japan to stop another of its so-call research whaling programmes (in the Antarctic), ruling it contravenes a 1986 ban on commercial whale hunting. Whilst primarily directed at Japan’s Antarctic operations, the ICJ directed that Japan and any nation contemplating issuing so-called ‘scientific whaling’ permits, should also consider the ruling in terms of its applicability to these operations.
During the court hearings representatives from the Australian government outlined how useless Japanese whaling is in scientific terms, stating that the ‘research’ programme only makes use of a small part of the whale. The rest is turned into edible products and sold, and a third discarded – thus confirming that these hunts are effectively commercial whaling in disguise, and just an excuse for Japanese whalers to get around the current international ban.
The Australian legal team also pointed out that Japan has never explained why it needs to kill thousands of minke whales in the name of research. Scientific experts at the trial told the court that the only thing the Japanese ‘research’ has offered following the killing of more than 7’000 whales is that ‘Antarctic minke whales eat a whole lot of krill’! This, they explained, is ‘something we can learn in biology class at school’.
The court ruling led Japan to suspend whaling in the Southern Ocean, but the country has said it will resume hunting there also later this year.