In a move that risks straining tensions with anti-whaling nations, the government plans to resume, for the first time in two years, research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean by the end of this year at the earliest, it was learned Thursday.
The government is expected to grant a special permit for research whaling to the Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research, which would be in charge of the operation, as early as next week, informed sources said.
In its fiscal 2014 whale research program in the Antarctic Ocean, Japan conducted visual checks only, without hunting whales, after the International Court of Justice ordered the country in March 2014 to stop research whaling there, upholding a complaint filed by Australia.
This time, Japan plans to hunt 333 minke whales based on a program it submitted to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee following the ICJ ruling, the sources said. The number is about one-third of the limit set under the country’s past research whaling programs in the Antarctic Ocean.
In addition, Japan will expand nonlethal research that does not involve the hunting of whales, such as sampling skin tissue for DNA analysis, the sources said.
Under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, research whaling is possible if a special permit is granted by a national government. But Tokyo’s plan to resume research whaling could spark criticism from anti-whaling nations.
The international convention’s Article VIII stipulates, “Any contracting government may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research” subject to certain restrictions.
Japan launched research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean in 1987 and then in the northwestern Pacific in 1994.
But with tensions between Japan and the anti-whaling camp escalating, Australia sued the country at the ICJ in The Hague, the Netherlands, in 2010, demanding a halt to its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.
After the ICJ ruling, Japan decided not to take part in principle in trials at the court over international disputes concerning whaling.