Hague court ruling looks to sideline whalers

After ICJ decision, minister says Japan will probe ways to continue hunts

JIJI, Kyodo

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi indicated his desire Tuesday to find ways for Japan to continue whaling despite the International Court of Justice’s order to discontinue the activity.

While expressing regret over the ICJ’s ruling Monday that the country must stop its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean, Hayashi said at a press conference, “Whale meat is an important food and there is no change in our thinking about the utilization (of whale meat) for scientific purposes.

“We will closely examine the ruling and swiftly figure out ways to continue whaling,” Hayashi said.

Hayashi is from Shimonoseki, a city in Yamaguchi Prefecture where Japan’s research whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean is based. He added that he eats whale meat several times a month.

Separately Tuesday, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he is deeply disappointed by the ruling. “But we will accept it from the standpoint of a country that observes international law.”

Meanwhile, whalers and others in related businesses fear the country’s tradition and culture will be devastated.

“It was surprising, or perhaps I should say it was unexpected. . . . In any case, I am dissatisfied (with the verdict),” said Jun Uchimi, 52, shortly after the ICJ concluded that Japan’s whaling was not for research purposes and should end. Uchimi has been engaged in so-called research whaling for over 10 years in Miyagi Prefecture.

Uchimi was prepared to join this year’s whale hunt from April 22, but it is now uncertain whether it will go ahead as scheduled.

“It doesn’t sound right to me that differences of culture and law in each country are not recognized,” he said.

People in areas with close links to the whaling industry also voiced concern and opposition to the court decision.

Shimonoseki used to be known as a whaling station and touts itself as “the city of whales.” Wani Komei, chief of an organization there for the preservation of whale eating culture, said the verdict was unacceptable by any measure.

Komei denied the court’s finding that Japan had released too little data to substantiate the claim it conducted whaling for research purposes.

There has also been a dispute over whether eating whale meat can be considered part of “Japan’s traditional culture,” with some claiming whaling in the Antarctic Ocean only developed after World War II amid a food shortage.

One fish processing company in Nagasaki Prefecture, where whale meat consumption is the highest in the country, vowed to preserve “the tradition” despite strong criticism from Western countries against whaling.

Yuichi Hino, 59, the head of the company, said he will “work to carry on the culture of eating whale meat that is rooted in Japan’s food culture.”

Some consumers expressed regret over the ICJ decision.

“I am used to the taste of whale meat,” Jotaro Kubo, 48, said Monday at a whale-meat restaurant in the city of Osaka. “Foreigners eat tuna, which has been also endangered in recent years.”

  • Matthew Forve

    I would like to see the numbers and understand the possibility that limited whaling is sustainable. If so, the anti-whaling trend can only be attributed to cultural differences. After all, America is doing long term damage to its oceans and the gulf with its agricultural runoff, which could be offset by eating a wider variety of sustainable seafood, as in Japan.

  • Joseph Wisgirda

    Find something else to eat Japan. There are only a few of these creatures left. Your country will not starve without it. Left to your devices, there would be no whales left within a few years the way you are going, so the whalers are going to have to retool and find other jobs eventually anyway. There is no long-term job security in hunting a creature that is almost extinct. This should happen sooner rather than later, so these creatures are not driven to annihilation.

  • Joseph Wisgirda

    It is selfish to prize a small aspect of one’s culture above the survival of a species whose intelligence is at least equal to and most likely greater than our own.

  • Robert

    I hope the Japanese tell the UN to blow it out their backside. Australia does not have any legitimate standing to challenge what Japan does in international waters.

  • Matthew Forve

    It’s true that when you eat a diverse diet, each component becomes less important. Can you provide some actual numbers on Minke whale harvest and population? Is the population suffering from whaling? This information is oddly missing from this discussion which drives home the fact that this is a discussion about whale intelligence, ie, cultural values and not ecological sustainability.

  • SC4649

    I seriously doubt we have a deeply seeded culture of eating whale meat in Japan.
    Sure, there were whale hunts historically, but they were near-shore and often on animals that wandered into bays etc. And the hunters were generally normal fishermen that took the opportunity to harvest a then rare and rich resource for oils and baleen.
    I personally have only eaten whale meat twice in my life time (I rarely see them on menus at any restaurant). And I’ve never heard anyone around me talk about eating whale meat on a regular basis either. I don’t think Japanese treat whale meat as a precious delicacy, but some sort or curious cuisine that may or may not be worth trying.
    I think there is a higher demand for beef, pork and chicken than there is for whale meat.