Japan plans to hike Northwest Pacific research whaling haul to 314

JIJI, Kyodo

The government has announced a plan to cap catches for so-called research whaling at 314 per year in the Northwestern Pacific for a 12-year period starting in fiscal 2017.

The proposal is about 100 whales higher than recent levels, which could trigger a backlash from anti-whaling countries, including Australia.

The new plan is based on scientific calculations, the government said Wednesday.

In the draft research whaling plan submitted to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, the government also said it would catch whales off Abashiri in Hokkaido, in addition to existing research areas off Kushiro, also in Hokkaido, and Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

Under the plan, research whaling will cover only minke and sei whales, down from the current four species. Japan will also continue visual checks and skin sample collections that are carried out without catching whales.

The draft will be finalized after discussions at a Scientific Committee meeting in May 2017. The government aims to start research whaling before fiscal 2017 ends in March 2018.

Japan has limited annual catches in the Northwestern Pacific to 217 whales since fiscal 2014, in response to an International Court of Justice ruling that ordered Japan to suspend its dubious research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean after debunking it as nonscientific. Japan had suspected for decades of using a research as a legal crutch to hunt whales for food.

Japan faces increasing criticism for so-called research whaling from anti-whaling countries. In October, a proposal by the anti-whaling camp to delay research whaling was adopted at a recent IWC general meeting in Slovenia.

If Japan is to follow the resolution, it won’t be able to engage in research whaling until the next IWC general meeting in 2018. Yet it is not legally binding and Japan does not plan to follow it.