Amid growing opposition to whaling in the international community, the government has made clear its stance of aiming to resume commercial whaling. In November, the government released a new plan under which Japan will set its catch quota for research whaling in the northwestern Pacific Ocean with an annual increase of 97 whales and continue research whaling until 2028. Japan will start research whaling under the new plan as early as next summer.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in 2014 that Japan stop its research whaling conducted in the Antarctic Ocean. Although the ruling did not include the Northwest Pacific Ocean, the Fisheries Agency reduced the quota for research whaling from 380 whales a year to 217.
Afterwards, the government confirmed anew its view that “whales are marine resources that should be utilized.” As a result of aiming to “scientifically calculate the sustainable number of whales that can be caught by making clear the reproductive rate of whales” through research whaling in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, the agency increased the quota by 97 to 314 a year (174 minke whales and 140 sei whales) and decided in November to add the Sea of Okhotsk as an research area. This plan will be discussed at meetings of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) next year, and opinions for and against the plan will be submitted. In response to the conclusion of the committee, Japan will start research whaling under the new plan as early as next summer, officials say.
However, at the IWC general assembly held in Slovenia in October, a resolution submitted jointly by Australia and New Zealand to stop Japan’s research whaling was adopted with a majority. Although the resolution is not legally binding, Japan decided the following month to increase the quota for research whaling in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, which showed the international community Japan’s strong intention to continue research whaling.
The estimated population of minke whales in the Northwest Pacific Ocean is about 25,000. Regarding the new quota for research whaling set at 174, the Fisheries Agency explained, “The number was calculated statistically to find out the total number of minke whales.”
Anti-whaling countries are expected to intensify their objections to Japan’s research whaling. Especially Australia and New Zealand – which have tacitly allowed the anti-whaling organization “Sea Shepherd” to resort to violent means to obstruct Japan’s research whaling in the southern seas – will strongly oppose Japan’s research whaling.
“Anti-whaling countries never consider at all to data collected by Japan through research whaling, and they only focus on whether the quota has increased or decreased,” said Joji Morishita, 59, a professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, who represents the Japanese government at the IWC.
Some environmental protection organizations in the U.S. and Europe are now calling for stronger controls for the conservation of tuna, eel, and other marine resources in addition to whales. Professor Morishita says some whale species have now recovered in numbers. He added: “We should reasonably explain that Japan will utilize marine resources in a sustainable way. Otherwise, international opinion calling for the extreme protection of tuna and other fish may grow stronger.” (Abridged)