E-commerce giant Rakuten Inc bids sayonara to whale meat products following a historic ruling denying Japan rights to hunt the giant mammals in the Antarctic.
Rakuten, slammed by conservationists for spurring illegal international trade of wildlife products, said it will halt all sales of whale and dolphin meat at the end of the month.
The move comes on the heels of a scathing report by London-based Environmental Investigation Agency that criticized Rakuten for allowing its merchants to sell banned wildlife products such as whale meat and elephant ivory. The report claimed that Rakuten made millions of dollars of profit from thousands of listings for such products on its online marketplace.
For the first time since 1987, Japan will ground its whaling fleet for next season in line with a UN court that ruled that its annual whale cull was unscientific.
A “deeply dissapointed” Tokyo earlier this week said it would honor Monday’s ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague but did not exclude the possibility of Japanese whaling programs in the North Pacific and other regions.
“We have decided to cancel research whaling (in the Antarctic) for the fiscal year starting in April because of the recent ruling,” said Kazuyoshi Honkawa, Director-General of the Fisheries Agency.
But he added that “we plan to go ahead with research whaling in other areas as scheduled.”
The Japanese whaling fleet usually leaves near the end of the year for the annual hunt and returns in April or May.
Japan consumes an estimated 4,000–5,000 tons of whale meat a year. Whale meat from Antarctica has accounted for 1,000–2,000 tons of the total in recent years.
“Whale meat is an important source of food, and the government’s position to use it based on scientific facts has not changed,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a press conference.
Meanwhile, EIA Senior Campaigner Clare Perry lauded Rakuten’s new policy as “unexpected” and “fantastic,” adding that the agency will continue urging Rakuten to “stop all elephant ivory sales.”
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: “Whale meat for sale at a supermarket” by thaths/Flickr