SAPPORO – A fleet of vessels will depart from Kushiro, Hokkaido, on July 1 as Japan resumes commercial whaling following a three-decade hiatus after the government announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission in December, a local fishery source said Friday.
A fleet of five vessels belonging to six whaling operators — from Hokkaido’s Abashiri, Miyagi Prefecture’s Ishinomaki, Chiba Prefecture’s Minamiboso and Wakayama Prefecture’s Taiji —which have been conducting the last round of Japan’s so-called scientific whaling around Abashiri port since June 1, will embark on the mission.
Whaling operators are making final arrangements with relevant bodies to hold a ceremony the day they set sail from Kushiro, where they will commence their activities for around a week.
Each vessel will then separately fish for Berardius whales off Minamiboso and other areas until around the end of August. They are expected to regather in Kushiro in September before embarking to hunt minke whales until October.
Japan halted commercial whaling in 1988 in line with a moratorium adopted in 1982 by the IWC. But it has hunted whales for what it claims are research purposes ever since, a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling.
Japan will hunt whales in nearby waters and within its exclusive economic zone but not in the Antarctic Ocean, where the country has carried out the so-called scientific whaling.
Around 200,000 tons of whale meat was consumed in Japan each year in the 1960s, but the figure has fallen to around 5,000 tons in recent years, according to government data.