Commercial Whaling Returns to Japan

Ignoring international outrage, the island nation will be launching five hunting vessels starting July 2019
Japan Ignores Outrage and Brings Back Commercial Whaling
Japan Ignores Outrage and Brings Back Commercial Whaling

After a controversial withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission last year, Japan is unfortunately poised to resume commercial whaling after a gap of over 30 years. Come July 1, and a fleet of five vessels will set off from Abashiro port in Kushiro, Hokkaido after a formal ceremony. They are expected to continue whaling until the autumn months.

Government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga had confirmed in 2018 that whaling would return, but that it would be within Japan's &ldquoterritorial waters and exclusive economic zones&rdquo. However, leaving the IWC meant that Japan no longer had the allowance granted to signatories to capture whales in Antarctica. It had been permissible there for &lsquoscientific research&rsquo. Many felt Japan used this leeway as a cover to engage in commercial whaling.

July&rsquos whaling itinerary&mdashthe first official one since 1988&mdashplans to target several whale species the vulnerable Giant Beaked Berardius whales in the summer months, minke whales in northern seas until October, and so on. Aggressive protest, however, is mostly found beyond Japanese waters.

Despite a drastic decline in the consumption of the meat, coastal communities dependent on whaling applauded the move. Several whaling hubs coincide with the constituencies of high-profile Japanese politicians, which may explain the readiness for round two. PM Shinzo Abe&rsquos constituency, Shimonoseki city, is an example.

The argument made by pro-whaling campaigners is that most whale species exist in comfortable numbers (which is not entirely true), and that the practice is deeply woven into the fabric of Japanese culture. Much like Iceland and Norway, who also practice whaling in defiance of the IWC, Japan doesn&rsquot actually require subsistence whaling. Whale fat and flesh aren&rsquot daily components of everyday life there, and the country may have just harpooned itself when it comes to maintaining marine diversity and conservation in the Pacific Ocean.

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