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April 5, 2012

Japan's Whaling Season Ends as Another IWC Meeting Approaches

HSI continues efforts to protect whales

Humane Society International

  • Whale meat for sale in a Japanese supermarket. Flavio Gallozzi

by Adam Peyman

The 2011-2012 Japanese Antarctic "scientific" whaling season recently came to a close, and the Japanese Fisheries Agency reported having caught an estimated 100 pregnant female Antarctic minke whales. Although the agency stated that the percentage of pregnant females showed "the robustness of Antarctic minke whale reproduction,” it is impossible to celebrate the killing of these animals, especially while they are carrying young.

When managing the hunts of virtually every other species targeted for commercial, subsistence, or research purposes, killing pregnant females is prohibited; yet in scientific whaling, the Japanese Fisheries Agency presents this as a positive. This is yet another reason why hunting whales should end—a standard management precaution, designed to prevent species depletion, cannot be followed, as it is impossible for whalers on the high seas to identify female minke whales, let alone pregnant ones.

Propping up cruelty

While this season’s Antarctic scientific whaling expedition caught a total of 167 whales—a low number compared to previous years—the budget for the effort has never been higher. Scientific whaling is paid for by Japanese taxpayers' money through subsidies from the Japanese government. The representatives of Japan’s scientific whaling program claim that whaling directly benefits the areas affected by the 2011 tsunami. This is dubious at best, and some in Japan are demanding proof from the government.

Controversy to come

At last year’s 63rd annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting, Latin American nations proposed a whale sanctuary in the southern Atlantic Ocean, which would effectively prohibit whaling in the area. However, the proposal was derailed by pro-whaling nations, whose representatives walked out of the meeting, thereby preventing a quorum, the minimum number of Parties necessary for the discussion to proceed. The proposal was put off until this year’s meeting in Panama City, Panama, which will take place in July.

Working for whales

Humane Society International continues to pressure Japan to cease whaling through our efforts at the annual IWC meeting as well as via corporate campaigns, like the recently co-sponsored effort to end the sale of whale meat on Amazon.com's Japanese website. Thanks to an amazing outpouring of support from the public, Amazon now explicitly prohibits the sale of whale and dolphin products. Help by donating or taking action.