Japan faces backlash over push to resume ‘cruel’ commercial whaling
Japanese officials want to water down voting rules and allow hunting of whale species with healthy numbers
Japan has set itself on a diplomatic collision course with Australia and other anti-whaling nations amid reports that it plans to push for the partial resumption of commercial whaling later this year.
The country’s delegation to a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Brazil in September will attempt to alter voting rules that would make it easier to resume for-profit whaling, media reports said.
Commercial whaling was banned under a 1986 IWC moratorium, but Japan has continued to hunt whales legally in the Southern ocean every winter for what it claims is scientific research.
A clause in the moratorium allows it to sell whale meat from the hunts on the open market, although consumption has plummeted in recent decades.
Japanese officials say the proposal would cover catch quotas only for species whose stocks are no longer recognised as depleted, citing evidence showing that the populations of humpback, minke and other whale species have increased.
Japan will propose setting a catch quota for species whose stocks are recognised as healthy by the IWC scientific committee, Hideki Moronuki, a whaling official at the fisheries agency, told Agence France-Presse.
Moronuki added that Japan would propose lowering the proportion of votes required to set catch quotas from two-thirds of the IWC membership to a simple majority a move that is expected to encounter strong resistance from Australia and New Zealand.
Australia’s department of the environment and energy said it would seek to block any attempt by Japan to return to commercial whaling. Australia will strongly oppose any proposals to overturn the moratorium or change the rules for setting catch limits, it said in a statement to the Fairfax Media.
Conservation groups accused Japan of attempting to resurrect a cruel, archaic and unnecessary industry.
Trying to subvert the way the IWC makes its decisions wont change the fact that for decades the majority of IWC members have had zero appetite for a return to the bygone era of commercial whaling, said Nicola Beynon, head of campaigns at Humane Society International in Australia.
Japan faced criticism in May after reporting that its heavily subsidised whaling fleet killed 122 pregnant whales during its annual research hunt in the Southern Ocean last winter. Of the 333 minke whales caught during the four-month expedition, 181 were female including 53 juveniles.
In 2014, the international court of justice ordered a halt the annual slaughter of whales in the Southern ocean, after concluding that the hunts were not, as Japan had claimed, conducted for scientific research.