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February 17, 2011

Japan Recalls Whaling Fleet Early

Humane Society International

  • A Japanese ship harpoons another great whale. Greenpeace

by Marcie Berry

As usual, Japan set out for the Southern Ocean in November 2010 for their annual whaling “research” program. Normally, their season lasts through mid-March, but recent reports indicate that they may have cut it short by a few weeks due to pressure from a conservationist organization. Humane Society International welcomes this news with cautious optimism. It is certainly telling of the status of whaling that Japan would recall its vessels early, considering the latest buzz surrounding the controversial industry—news of the growing stockpile of unwanted whale meat, the exposure of a whale meat embezzlement scandal, Australia’s international court case against Japan, and most recently, a new joint statement [PDF] by all of the Latin American members of the IWC urging Japan to cease whaling in the Southern Ocean. Pressure is mounting from all sides and within; perhaps Japan is starting to see that there is no future in commercial whaling.

Japanese officials have been quick to call this only a temporary suspension of whaling activities, but do not specify when they plan to continue. It is possible that they may in fact call off the rest of this year’s hunt with only four weeks left and less than half of their killing quota, but as of now it is safe to assume that their ships will be back come November 2011. This year’s early end will certainly save a number of whales’ lives and is great news for the people who work so hard to protect them, but we must keep fighting and keep the pressure on the Japanese government. The whales aren’t safe just yet, but this news certainly brings us hope for the future.