SYDNEY – The governments of at least 21 antiwhaling nations have undertaken the largest single diplomatic protest ever against Japan’s lethal scientific whaling program, according to statements released this week by the governments of New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand’s Conservation Minister Chris Carter said in a statement that 27 countries took part in a demarche at the Foreign Ministry last Friday, while a further protest was planned for this week at the Fisheries Agency.
“This is the largest number of governments in recent times to express jointly their deep concern that the government of Japan will continue its controversial so-called scientific whaling program,” Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said in a separate statement, which mentioned 21 countries.
Japan this year plans to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and 10 endangered fin whales. Next year it plans to start taking humpback whales.
“Adequate data for whale management purposes can be obtained using nonlethal techniques — there’s no need to kill whales to study them,” New Zealand’s Carter said. “We consider that Japan’s scientific whaling undermines international efforts to conserve and protect whales.”
Australia’s Campbell, meanwhile, said that far from benefiting the scientific community, “Japan’s whaling will undermine international efforts to conserve and protect whales.”
He said a number of the humpback whales to be killed by Japanese harpooners are likely to be known to researchers on the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Tonga and may have been photographed as part of existing nonlethal scientific research programs.
These nonlethal scientific research programs, he said, “will be undermined” by Japan’s actions.
Humpback whales are classified as vulnerable on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, while fin whales are classified as endangered.
Six ships departed Japan on Nov. 15 on a whaling expedition to the Antarctic Ocean, the 20th such expedition conducted since Japanese scientific whaling began in 1987.
Between now and the return of the fleet in April, the research team aims to hunt about 950 whales and collect data on their age and stomach contents, as well as any toxic chemicals detected in their bodies.
The whale carcasses will be sold for meat once the research has been completed, and proceeds will be used to fund future research.
Japan’s scientific whaling is permitted under the rules of the International Whaling Commission.