Whaling to be pared, not halted

Despite ruling, North Pacific, Antarctic hunts said still planned


The government announced Friday it will continue seasonal “research whaling” in both the Northwest Pacific and the Antarctic Ocean but reduce the catch, after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Japan to stop whaling in the Antarctic.

Japan is expected to begin this year’s whaling in the Northwest Pacific later than planned on April 26. The Pacific whaling is not subject to the ICJ’s March 31 ruling.

In an effort to get the international ban on commercial whaling lifted, Japan plans to continue collecting scientific data, including on whale populations, in the Northwest Pacific, while trying to minimize criticism from anti-whaling nations.

The ICJ ruling forced Japan to give up its annual hunt in the Antarctic Ocean later this year by declaring its “research” whaling to be unscientific in nature. Japan conducts such whaling in the Northwest Pacific every spring.

The whaling fleet’s departure for the Northwest Pacific has been delayed to April 26 instead of Tuesday amid a tussle between the Foreign Ministry and the Fisheries Agency.

The Foreign Ministry was concerned that if Japan begins whaling in the Northwest Pacific immediately after the ICJ order, anti-whaling countries may sue to halt hunts there as well.

The Fisheries Agency insisted that whaling in the Northwest Pacific should continue, but at a reduced target catch of 60 whales.

A fleet for catching minke whales off Japanese coastal waters leaves Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, every April as part of the so-called research whaling program in the Northwest Pacific.

Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said the delay was a side effect of U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned three-day visit to Japan starting Wednesday, because the United States opposes whaling.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Shunichi Suzuki, head of a group of LDP lawmakers who favor whaling, and other politicians have urged the government to continue research whaling.

Ayukawa Hogei Co., which engages in traditional coastal whaling in northern Japan and also takes part in the research hunt, welcomed the decision.

“If the research program is discontinued, our company will no doubt go bankrupt this year,” Minoru Ito, president of firm in the tsunami-hit city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, said by telephone.

The company has been catching Baird’s beaked whales — a species not covered by the moratorium — in coastal waters since the U.N. ruling, as well as taking part in the research program to hunt Minke whales off Ishinomaki from April to June.

The ban threatened to choke the port of Ayukawa in Ishinomaki, which has depended on whaling since the mid-19th century.

But Ito said: “We can survive if the program continues while we are recovering from the (2011 tsunami) disaster with borrowed money and government help.”

  • GBR48

    The ICJ, although technically toothless on paper, has been known to function on occasions. Should Japan ignore this ruling, any future ruling in favour of Japan on, say, territorial issues, could justifiably be ignored by all losing parties, Japan having set its own precedent.

    So to support the blatantly obvious ‘research’ lie that brings Japan into disrepute globally, harvesting a product that hardly flies off the shelves of the supermarkets being by all accounts pretty foul, purely out of nationalist bloody-mindedness and a refusal to let go of the past (on just about anything), the Japanese government are willing to generate global ill-will towards their nation (negating any funding on ‘cool Japan’ projects), isolate themselves, offend their allies, risk demos at the Olympics in 2020 and miss out on their best chance of a UN-backed settlement on all of those disputed islands.

    Given the inexorable rise of China, that last one might be worth going for sooner rather than later.

    Government support to end the whaling industry without hardship for those involved would cost peanuts next to the costs of the tsunami clean-up, the hidden ‘nationalised’ costs of maintaining the nuclear industry and the enormous long-term costs of the on-going Fukushima disaster.

    The ICJ ruling and the award of the Olympics together constitute an opportunity for Japan to look forwards and enhance its position and status within the international community at both popular and governmental levels. Such chances are rare.

    Even for the nationalists of the ‘raving right’, harpooning yourself in the foot by disregarding the ICJ ruling is pretty crazy and a decision that future Japanese governments may come to regret.

    • Charlie Sommers

      GBR48, I was going to reply to this but you have covered all the issues involved in the matter and covered them very well I might add.

      Heed the warning Japan. You have more to lose than any other country in this matter

  • Christopher D. Hunts

    So the Japanese elite lost by all accounts and they plan to do the whaling anyway? Nothing says entitlement more than entitlement. Come on guys, you are supposed to all be the descendants of the great samurai, where did all of the honor go? Going after endangered animals just lost you so many points I don’t know if you will ever be able to recover. I feel sad for the dishonor you bring to the rest of the Japanese people who don’t eat whale meat. You have shrouded all of their voices with this one careless decision. This is shameful. You have massively-diverse diet choices already. Hunt something not endangered. Why choose this, of all things, to hold to?…

  • Jaycasey

    I am so disappointed in Japan. Not only is killing highly sentient creatures immoral, lying is immoral and whaling does so much damage to the country’s international image. How stupid!