Japanese Ships Renew Whaling Operations

Despite the United Nations declaring it illegal, a fleet of Japanese ships will embark on a season of whaling that will run from December to March. The Japanese government insists they are research vessels, while the UN counters that the supposed scientific missions are commercial hunts.

The UN is not alone in its criticism of Japan’s whaling practices. Last year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that those missions failed to meet the criteria of scientific expeditions, before urging the Japanese government to put an end to them. According to the BBC, those whaling ships complied with the ICJ and sailed back to shore. The new mission, however, signifies a far more assertive stance on the part of the whalers.

However, the Japanese government is quick to point to its more restrained aims for this hunt: lethally netting a maximum of 333 Antarctic whales, a third of earlier totals. Officials also tout the non-lethal research portion of this mission, which features everything from sighting surveys to biopsy sample gathering.

However, counterparts in the Australian government are not satisfied with those measures. Greg Hunt, the country’s Environment Minister, said, “We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called ‘scientific research’.”

Hunt’s comments mark another clash between the two countries on this issue. In fact, the aforementioned 2014 ICJ ruling was spurred on by Australia, who brought it before the court in 2010. Meanwhile The Australian points out that Australia has spent nearly two decades engaging Japan diplomatically on the issue, in the hope of safeguarding endangered whales. However, if that softer approach continues to fall short, the government will consider sending a patrol vessel to accompany the Japanese whaling fleet. The Australian opposition Labor Party applauded this idea, calling for the government “to bring all pressure to bear on Japan to renounce this irresponsible and illegal course of action.”

–Kyle Mullin

Image of crew members of a Sea Shepherd ship pelt Kaiko Maru, a spotting boat in the Japanese whaling fleet, 2008: guano/Flickr, used under CC

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