Japan’s commercial whaling bid is the most dangerous, reckless attempt to exploit whales in decades, says HSI as IWC begins in Brazil

Humane Society International

  • Naomi Blinick/Marine Photobank

LONDON—Today marks the start of the International Whaling Commission meeting in Florianópolis, Brazil, and marine experts attending from Humane Society International will be reminding whale-friendly governments—including the United Kingdom and the United States—that Japan’s proposals to bring back commercial whaling are a dangerous threat to whales, displaying reckless disregard for their conservation and welfare.

Japan will argue that the ban should be lifted because, it claims, some whale populations have sufficiently recovered in number to start killing them again. This not only glosses over the extreme cruelty of whaling, but also ignores the considerable difficulty in assessing whale population health and status, especially given the range of 21st century threats to their survival.

Claire Bass, executive director of HSI/UK, says: “The very reason that many species of whale were driven to near extinction in the first place is because of decades of unrelenting and merciless commercial whaling. The fact that some of these whales have just now started to recover from that decimation should in no way be seen as a green light to start massacring them again. Whales are long-lived, slow breeding mammals who are uniquely vulnerable to over-exploitation, and their ocean homes are severely degraded by many human activities. If Japan’s proposals were accepted it would once again be open season on whales, so this is the most dangerous and reckless attempt to bring back commercial whaling that we have seen in decades.”

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Whilst Japan may accuse anti-whaling nations of so-called ‘cultural imperialism’, HSI believes that culture should never be accepted as an excuse for the immense cruelty of killing these ocean giants with exploding harpoons. It is also highly debatable how culturally significant the average Japanese citizen considers whale meat, with much of Japan’s whale meat stockpiled in freezers without buyers, and the most recent opinion poll (from 2012) by Nippon Research Centre showing that 88.8 per cent of Japanese people had not bought whale meat in the preceding 12 months, and a mere 27 per cent of respondents expressing support for whaling.

HSI will call on anti-whaling governments such as Australia, New Zealand and Britain—led by Commissioner Gemma Harper—to speak up for whale conservation on the moratorium and other key topics such as bycatch, the creation of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, and the myriad threats to thousands of cetaceans accidentally killed or injured each year by entanglements, strandings and pollution from noise, plastic and chemicals. Faced by such a barrage of perils, many of which we’re only just beginning to understand, the last thing whales need is also to be targeted by whalers.
Humane Society International has a team of experts at the IWC meeting from the United Kingdom, Australia, United States, Latin America and Brazil who are available for interview or comment.

Media contact: HSI (United Kingdom) Wendy Higgins, Director of International Media: whiggins@hsi.org