Japan Resumes Commercial Whale Hunting 30 Years After 'Stopping'

Katie Ramirez
July 3, 2019

After thirty years of interruption, Japan officially resumes Monday, July 1 commercial whaling.

The country broke with global policy established in 1982 by the worldwide Whaling Commission (IWC) to resume the hunting and killing of whales for food, despite an nearly 99-percent decrease in consumer demand for whale meat from 1862 to 2017.

The country's Fisheries Agency said Monday it had set a cap for a total catch of 227 whales through the season until late December - 52 minke, 150 Bryde's and 25 sei whales.

Proponents of commercial whaling see it as a possibility that the government's expensive and competitive whaling program will gradually come to a standstill in the face of changing times and tastes.

At the time, a fleet left Japan this week for the polar region, where it planned to kill 333 minke whales.

Japanese vessels have long conducted whaling for research purposes in the Antarctic Ocean and northwestern Pacific Ocean, seeking to collect ecological data on whales.

Japan defined meat from whales caught under research whaling as a "by-product" of its scientific study of the mammal's biology.

The return of commercial whaling was a "milestone in the history of Shimonoseki", Mayor Shintato Maeda told reporters, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

Conservationists were happy but whaling countries - like Japan, Norway and Iceland - assumed the moratorium would be temporary until everyone could agree on sustainable quotas. "Yet during a year where Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thurnberg, and school children worldwide are challenging our leaders to tackle environmental decline, Japan is sending its whaling ships back to sea, within days of hosting the G20 Summit", Dominic Dyer, Senior Policy Advisor of animal-rights group Born Free Foundation, said.

Whaling is a tiny industry in Japan.

Japan resumes commercial whale hunts for first time in three decades
Japan's new self-arrogated quota - which could be renewed or changed next year - includes 150 Bryde's, 52 minke and 25 sei whales. Protesters march in London to demonstrate against Japan's decision to resume commercial whaling, January 2019.

The IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling has broadly been a success - whale populations have increased where whaling was the primary threat.

Yoshifumi Kai, head of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, watched the bloodied animal transported from the boat. However, some meat taken from whales caught for scientific whaling ended up being sold in stores and restaurants.

But it also exploited a loophole in the body's rules to carry out highly controversial hunts of whales in protected Antarctic waters under the banner of "scientific research".

Shimonoseki has been known as a leading distribution hub for whale meat since the Edo Period (1603-1867).

"I don't think young people know how to cook and eat whale meat any more".

The ministry will allow for the hunting of three species: minke, Bryde's and sei whales.

In fact, some defenders of whaling argue that whale meat has a smaller carbon footprint than pork or beef.

Mr Moronuki says the fate of commercial whaling depends on whether whale meat is widely accepted by consumers since it will not be getting as much subsidy as it used to get.

Agreements made under this convention might be better able to deal with the diverse threats facing whales.

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