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Image: Peter Flood

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Japan continues to ignore international court ruling as new hunts begin

Japanese whalers have left port to start hunting whales in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. They hope to catch up to 90 sei whales and 25 Bryde’s whales in hunts that are expected to last until late July, the country’s Fisheries Agency said.

Two whaling ships left Shimonoseki port on Thursday morning and the 8145-ton Nisshin Maru, the mother ship of the fleet, is scheduled to depart from a port in neighbouring Hiroshima prefecture on Friday.

Japan has long used a research loophole in the 1986 ban on commercial whale hunting, and the Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research in Japan claims that this slaughter will contribute to research studies into things such as the stomach contents of whales.

In March 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that this so-called ‘research whaling’ in the Antarctic contravened a 1986 moratorium on whale hunting as it offered little or no scientific value (most of the meat being sold commercially on the open market in Japan).

Following the ruling, Japan halted whaling in the Antarctic in 2014 but the ignored the ruling and resumed hunts in December, catching 333 minke whales in the Southern Ocean in two-months. Vast numbers of those whales killed were pregnant females.

WDC is particularly critical of the decision to kill Sei whales in these new hunts as it also violates Japan´s obligations under the global Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Japan does not have a reservation to hunt Sei whales under CITES but still sells the whales for commercial profit. 

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