Whale meat inventories in Japan have dived, hitting 1,157 tons at the end of May, the lowest level since the 817 tons recorded in March 2000, according to Fisheries Agency data.
The fall is attributed to the fact that Japan caught no whales during this year’s research mission in the Antarctic Ocean between January and March. A March 2014 ruling by the International Court of Justice banned it from conducting research whaling in the area.
In Japan’s latest Antarctic mission, the research team carried out only visual surveys of whale populations.
According to the agency’s data, inventories at whale meat distributors with large-scale refrigeration or freezer facilities stood at 3,027 tons at the end of August and have since continued falling.
A research whaling fleet is currently operating in the northwestern Pacific and is slated to return home in late August.
In addition, Japan plans to import about 1,800 tons of whale meat from Iceland via the Arctic Sea to cope with the declining inventories, informed sources said.
Distribution of the whale meat is expected to start in autumn or later.
Still, there are uncertainties. Antiwhaling groups have started campaigns to block the planned whale meat exports, sources familiar with the matter said. Also, customs procedures for the meat entering Japan from Iceland are expected to take time to complete.
The factors suggest tough conditions in the near-term for wholesalers of whale meat and restaurants serving it.