Japan was under fire for its “research” whaling in the Northwest Pacific as a possible violation of an international treaty on endangered species, while Tokyo’s ivory trading practice was also questioned.
During a five-day meeting of a standing committee on monitoring wildlife trade in Geneva through Friday, Japan drew criticism over its hunting of sei whales in the sea from anti-whaling countries, with Australia pointing out that the research whaling could be for commercial purposes.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES and also known as the Washington Convention, prohibits international trade of sei whales and effectively bans the catching of them in the open sea.
But Japan has continued the research whaling as the convention rules out scientific research from the restrictions.
In 2014, the International Court of Justice in The Hague found Japan’s research whaling in the Antarctic as a violation of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
Since then, there was speculation that the Washington Convention would take up the issue of Japan’s hunting of sei whales sooner or later.
During the conference in Geneva, some proposed a ban on trade with Japan but the panel recommended Japan provide sufficient information to the secretariat of the CITES and accept a monitoring team.
The Japanese government is expected to accept the team if the CITES secretariat concludes it is necessary to so do.
“What Japan has done is calculating the collected samples and selection of research areas…it’s difficult to say that it’s for scientific research,” said Atsushi Ishii, an expert on whaling and an associate professor at the Center for Northeast Asian Studies, Tohoku University.
“Chances are high that (Japan’s whaling) will be recognized as a violation of the treaty,” he added.
Meanwhile, the committee adopted a proposal that Japan should submit a report next year explaining how to regulate ivory trade in accordance with the treaty.
The move came after four countries — where African elephants inhabit — submitted a report criticizing Japan. While the United States and China have already banned domestic ivory trading, Japan is drawing criticism as it is allowing ivory trading.