TAIJI, WAKAYAMA PREF. – Japanese whaling towns Wednesday welcomed the government’s decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission, but some local residents voiced concern that it may lead to an escalation in protests.
“It is a major decision that will protect domestic fishermen who live on whaling,” said Kazutaka Sangen, the mayor of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, about the decision. “We very much appreciate it.”
The small town has frequently faced demonstrations by anti-whaling groups after gaining international recognition in the Oscar-winning 2009 U.S. conservationist documentary film “The Cove,” which was critical of the local fishing industry for capturing and killing dolphins in drive hunts.
A 66-year-old man who sells processed whale meat products in Taiji said he was unable to secure enough stock in the years when so-called research whaling was disrupted by activists.
“Once commercial whaling resumes, I believe the supply (of whale meat) will stabilize,” he said.
A 73-year-old woman was hopeful that the resumption of commercial whaling would lead to the revival of Taiji, but said she fears “violent anti-whaling activities could increase” in the future.
Local police said they have received no reports of trouble so far in the wake of the government’s formal announcement, but that they are on alert.
Reactions were also mixed in the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, home to the whaling district of Ayukawa.
Tomiji Saito, the deputy head of a local tourism association and the organizer of a whaling festival, said the nation’s restart of commercial whaling for the first time in about 30 years is good news.
Saito said many residents in the district were looking forward to anticipated benefits linked to the industry’s restart, saying it may increase employment, revive the industry and allow them to eat more whale meat.
But the 58-year-old went on, saying, “There are worries about whether we can secure enough personnel or places to distribute.”
While noting that the number of people who have the skills to butcher whales has declined over the past 30 years, he said, “From now on, each company in the Ayukawa district will have to make its own efforts. I hope it will take off.”