The Japanese government has revealed its plans to increase the number of whales it wants to catch and kill in the Northwestern Pacific for so-called research.
Despite the scientific value of ‘research’ hunts being criticised by International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the International Whaling Commission’s own Scientific Committee of experts, the Japanese government has now announced that it is placing the new cap on kills at 314 per year for a 12-year period starting in 2017.This represents an increase of 122 whales compared to previous levels, 72 more minke whales and 50 more Sei whales.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has also previously ordered Japan’s scientific whaling programme in the Antarctic to stop on the grounds that it offered little scientific value and that it was just commercial whale hunting in disguise
In this latest draft research whaling plan submitted to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, the government also said it would catch whales off Abashiri in Hokkaido, in addition to existing research areas off Kushiro, also in Hokkaido, and Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
Only two species will be hunted – minke and Sei whales but the increase in the Sei whale catch by 50 is of special concern since their take by Japan is also in contravention of CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – an international treaty drawn up in 1973 to protect wildlife from exploitation.
The draft plan will be finalized after discussions at a Scientific Committee meeting in May 2017 and government aims to start ‘research’ whaling before March 2018.
WDC will now engage with stakeholders and other NGOs to ensure the international community reacts with the appropriate strength. This move by Japan continues to flout the ICJ ruling and two IWC resolutions from 2014 and 2016, which aim to give the IWC better control over research whaling.
Japan faces increasing criticism for so-called research whaling from anti-whaling countries. In October, a proposal to delay research whaling was adopted at the recent International Whaling Commission meeting in Slovenia. If Japan was to follow the resolution, it won’t be able to engage in research whaling until the next IWC general meeting in 2018. However, the proposal is not legally binding and Japan is unlikely to follow it.