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Taking Path of a 'Pirate Whaling Nation,' Japan Reportedly Set to Resume Commercial Whale-Hunting in Its Waters

"This is a grave mistake which is out of step with the rest of the world."

The fate of whales is discussed by stakeholders around the world every four years at meetings of the International Whaling Commission, which Japan is reportedly planning to leave by the end of the year as it prepares to resume commercial whaling. (Photo: Cyrille Humbert/Flickr/cc)

Greenpeace joined a number of Australian wildlife conservation groups in condemning a reported Japanese plan to openly flout three decades of international law banning commercial whaling, saying the country's expected decision to withdraw from a global commission on the issue and allow the killing of whales in its waters for profit would put it "out of step with the rest of the world."
 
Kyodo News Agency originally reported Thursday that Japan is planning to announce its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by the end of the year, resuming commercial whaling in its coastal waters.
Under the plan, Japan would end its regular so-called "research" whaling trips to the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica that already enable it to sell whale meat. Last year alone, Japan killed 122 pregnant whales and 53 juvenile females. Such killings have violated international law, the International Court of Justice (IJC) said in 2014, and showed that the purpose of Japan's trips south were not truly for scientific research.
 

"Japan has failed to bully the IWC into permitting a return to the cruel and outdated industrial whaling of the past. So now Japan is reportedly threatening to turn their back on international efforts to control whaling and conserve whales." —Darren Kindleysides, Australian Marine Conservation Society

"We would like to wholeheartedly celebrate an end to Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean, but if Japan leaves the International Whaling Commission and continues killing whales in the north Pacific it will be operating completely outside the bounds of international law," said Nicola Beynon, head of campaigns at Australia's Humane Society International, in a statement. "This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for international rule."
 
Japan has denied that it plans to leave the IWC but a fisheries official acknowledged to the Guardian that the country wants "to resume commercial whaling as soon as possible."
 
Japan's reported plan comes three months after it attempted to secure enough votes at the IWC's annual meeting to lift the commercial whaling ban, which was put in place in 1986. Norway and Iceland already operate commercial whaling industries, disobeying the ban.

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"Japan has failed to bully the IWC into permitting a return to the cruel and outdated industrial whaling of the past," said Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. "So now Japan is reportedly threatening to turn their back on international efforts to control whaling and conserve whales."

Kindleysides agreed that Japan's anticipated withdrawal from the IWC was the action of a rogue nation and warned the move could harm international cooperation in other areas as well.
 
"Leaving the IWC would set a very dangerous precedent for other international treaties and conventions," Kindleysides said. "Not satisfied with harpooning whales, it now looks like Japan is threatening to harpoon the future of the IWC. The IWC has become the driving force for global whale conservation efforts in the 21st century. If Japan is serious about the future of the world's whales, they would not leave the IWC."

"This is a grave mistake which is out of step with the rest of the world," said Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan. "This snub to multilateralism is unacceptable and deeply concerning but let us not forget that the Japanese fleet has continued its operations in violation of the findings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in past years.

"Ultimately, the protection of the world's oceans and marine life needs global cooperation," Annesley added. "We hope that Japan will reverse its decision and take its place beside the nations trying to undo the damage human activities have done to whale populations."

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