Despite heavy international opposition, and a global moratorium to end the practice, the Japanese government still insists on whaling. As Japan decides to begin whaling in the North Pacific, the European Union has issued a formal letter to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) condemning the move.
Even though commercial whaling was made illegal under the Whaling Convention that came into place in 1985, Japan has not ceased its activity in harvesting the marine mammals. A loophole in the convention, which states that whales can be caught if it is for “scientific” purposes, means that Japan has been able to largely ignore the international ruling, although it has greatly reduced its quota.
This has long prompted fierce fighting from not only environmental groups, but also governments. This is because the whaling that Japan conducts often occurs in Antarctic waters claimed by Australia. Many legal challenges have subsequently been brought against Japan, and the nation was even taken to the International Court of Justice in 2014. The result of that was a ruling that stated the old Japanese whaling program JARPA II was not for scientific purposes at all.
In response to that ruling Japan scrapped JARPA II, only for the suspiciously similar NEWREP-A program to rise up and take its place. This year saw the Japanese whaling fleet return to port with 333 minke whales caught in Antarctic waters, while they have also set a self-allocated quota to take a further 134 endangered sei whales and 43 minke whales from the North Pacific.
In response, the 25 EU member states that have signed the whaling convention are expressing regret that the hunt in the North Pacific is still going ahead, despite recently agreed rules that would mean any new scientific programs need to be fully reviewed by the IWC.
“We applaud the EU for taking this important position and urge other IWC contracting governments to add their voices to the call for Japan to stop its sham ‘scientific’ whaling in the North Pacific,” said the Head of the Environment Investigation Agency’s Ocean Campaign, Clare Perry, in a statement. “This hunt, which is all too often ignored, is not just unsustainable but contravenes international law.”
It is important to note here that Japan is by no means alone in continuing to hunt whales. The EU should also be looking closer to home, as this year Norway set a quota of 999 minke whales, of which 90 percent are expected to be pregnant females.