Reports in Japanese media indicate that the Japanese whaling fleet has left today for Antarctica. The fleet sailed from Shimonoseki Port, Yamaguchi Prefecture in order to kill up to 333 Antarctic minke whales by next March for ongoing ‘research’.
The fleet consists of the Yushin Maru (724 tons) and The 3rd Yushin Maru (742 tons). They will meet with three other vessels offshore, including the factory ship Nisshin Maru (8145 tons) and the 2nd Yushin Maru (747 tons), which will leave from other ports.
Japan’s whalers killed 333 minke whales in the 2015/16 Antarctic hunting season with over 90% of the adult females being pregnant. The scientific value of this slaughter has also been called into question by the scientific committee of the body that regulates whale hunts (IWC – International Whaling Commission) and heavily criticised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the global authority on the status of the natural world.
Much of the whale meat from these ‘scientific’ hunts actually ends up on general sale in Japan and they seem intent on continuing the practice claiming it is part of Japanese national identity. However, large-scale, industrial whaling in Japan only started after World War II when animal protein was in short supply.
In March 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Japan should immediately rescind its unilateral Antarctic special permit (so-called ‘’scientific”) whaling since Japan’s Antarctic whaling did not qualify as such, and therefore as a consequence, Japan was in contravention of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on commercial whaling.