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New whaling ship leaves port as the whaling season begins in Japan

Japanese whaling ship

The whaling season in Japan is now underway following the launch of the industry’s new whaling ship, the Kangei Maru, which departed from the port of Shimonoseki.

The new ‘mother’ ship is 112m long, weighs just under ten tons and replaces the aging ‘Nisshin Maru’. The industrial whaling ship will operate at sea with the rest of the whaling fleet for around eight months and has the capability to store up to 600 tons of whale meat onboard.

The eye-watering cost of building the Kangei Maru is estimated to be around 7.5 billion yen (50 million dollars). Low demand for whale meat means that a large amount of public funding will have had to come from government subsidies to complete the build, making the whole project even more questionable. Along with the cruelty of slaughtering whales and the loss of culture within distinct whale populations, is the ecological cost of whaling which impacts us all. Removing whales from the ecosystem removes them from their pivotal role as ecosystem engineers through which they help fight climate change and sustain fish stocks.

This year’s hunt may include fin whales, which Japan recently decided it will add to the list of whale species it wants to kill.

Last season, the Japanese whaling fleet killed 83 minke whales, 187 Bryde's whales, and 24 sei whales.

‘Given the increasing threats posed by climate change, marine pollution, shipping traffic, underwater noise and overfishing, the hunt for endangered fin whales cannot possibly be sustainable,’ says Katrin Matthes, WDC’s campaign coordinator to end whaling in Japan. ‘Fin whales already have difficulties reproducing at a rate that allows populations to recover. Experience shows that it is mainly slow-swimming, pregnant females that fall victim to whaling.

We are campaigning at various political forums, such as the International Whaling Commission (IWC), for the continuation of the international ban on commercial whaling. Together with local organizations, we are with the residents of the remaining whaling countries (Iceland, Norway, and Japan) to support their efforts to exert pressure on their governments and demand an end to the hunting of whales and dolphins.