Japan to commercially hunt 227 whales this year

Pablo Tucker
July 3, 2019

Inside, whalers hosed it down with water and then lined up to pour ceremonial cups of the Japanese liquor sake over it - a ritual to purify and celebrate the catch.

As an IWC member, Japan halted commercial whaling in 1988 but hunted whales for what it claims were research purposes, a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling, reports Kyodo News Agency. The announcement of the quota, originally planned for late June, was delayed until Monday in an apparent move to avoid criticism during this past weekend's Group of 20 summit in Osaka. Shimonoseki is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's electoral constituency. Greenpeace says whales are a vital part of making the ocean work properly. The NGO Sea Shepherd said in December 2018, "happy to see the hunt come to an end in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary".

For most whale species, the exit of Japan from the convention banning commercial whaling will have few consequences.

Whaling has adverse effects on the world's ecosystem. However, it was quickly replaced by other meat.

In recent years, whales have been hunted by Japanese whalers, at least officially, for research purposes only. Japan's whalers hope to catch and kill hundreds more whales by the end of the year.

The research whaling programme lost money for years - 1.6 billion yen (£11.8 million) in the last year alone.

When quizzed about why he reckons Japan took the decision, he said: "Number one: Not getting their way within the IWC".

Today, Japan joins Iceland and Norway as the only nations to allow commercial whaling despite the IWC moratorium.

"It is totally false that commercial whaling will not be viable as demand is declining", he said. The government will now permit commercial whaling within Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency set a hunting quota of 227 whales for 2019. Whether Japan's diminished appetite for whale meat will reduce its whaling efforts though remains to be seen. The town is also known for its dolphin hunts shown in the documentary movie "The Cove". The meat of the killed whales was finally nevertheless used for consumption. The agency will also send its inspectors to whale processing and other facilities, and tracks the movements of whaling vessels by satellite.

Ultimately, the resumption of traditional whaling may end up saving large government subsidies and the lives of many whales, experts say.

Article 65 of said convention mandates that "states shall co-operate with a view to the conservation" of whales and "shall in particular work through the appropriate worldwide organizations for their conservation, management and study".

"It's a good decision for whales, it's a good decision for Japan, and it's a good decision for worldwide marine conservation", he said.

Japan has lobbied for the resumption of commercial whaling for 30 years.

"This is a small industry, but I am proud of hunting whales", added Kai in a ceremony before the boats left from Kushiro. Meat from the 330 whales caught in the Antarctic ended up in Japanese markets for public consumption.

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This story was reported by The Associated Press.

Other reports by iNewsToday