National

First whale meat auction held since restart of Japan's commercial hunt

Kyodo

Whale meat auctions were held Thursday in different areas of Japan, the first since the country ended its 31-year commercial whaling hiatus earlier this week, with some cuts selling for over ¥10,000 per kilogram.

A whaling fleet left Kushiro in Hokkaido on Monday to hunt in coastal waters and took two minke whales later the same day.

Approximately 66 kilograms of meat from one of the two animals was then brought to Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, for the auction because a vessel from the whaling town was among the fleet.

“I was able to make a successful bid at the celebratory auction,” said Akira Yutani, who heads a fishery company and submitted a bid for 40 kg. “I’d like to continue working on developing (whale meat) products for younger generations to enjoy.”

About 10 brokers from Taiji, regarded as the birthplace of whaling in Japan, took part in the auction.

“I’m very moved by how this meat came from a ship from Taiji,” said 59-year-old Yoshifumi Kai, a member of the town’s fishing cooperative. “It’s higher quality, unlike that from research whaling, as they drained the blood aboard. I want people to understand that whale meat tastes good.”

The red whale meat costs ¥598 for 100 grams at a supermarket run by the group. “I can’t wait to eat it as sashimi,” a 67-year-old male resident said.

Auctions were also held in Aomori and Miyagi prefectures, with certain cuts snatching up to ¥15,000 per kg at an event in Sendai.

Approximately 130 kg of red meat was auctioned off at about ¥4,500 to ¥7,000 per kg to numerous fishmongers and restaurants in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

In Kushiro, whale meat lined shopping aisles after being sold for as high as ¥4,000 per kg.

On Monday, a separate fleet also departed from the port of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Japan restarted commercial whaling a day after formally withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission.

The IWC was founded in 1948 and Japan joined it in 1951. It was originally composed of whaling nations, but an increasing number of anti-whaling member states led the IWC to adopt a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982.

As an IWC member, Japan halted commercial whaling in 1988 but hunted whales for what it claims were research purposes, a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling.

Japan had long sought to lift the moratorium and finally left the IWC on Sunday after the organization last September voted down its proposal to resume commercial whaling of species considered abundant such as minke whales.