Japan has resumed commercial whaling. The country withdrew from the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The resumption is after a 31-years hiatus. Japan ended its research whaling, which had been conducted in the Antarctic Ocean, and began catching minke whales, sei whales and Bryde’s whales within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
On the first day of resumption, whalers caught two minke whales off Kushiro. The catch quota through the end of December for the three species of whale set by the Fisheries Agency is 227 whales in total.
Japan, surrounded by ocean, has a long history of relationship with whales. Whales have been involved in the lives of the Japanese in many ways including their food culture. We want the international community to understand that Japan has a legitimate claim to commercial whaling.
However, the growing worldwide movement for conservation of cetacean species has become intertwined with global environmental issues.
While conserving whales, the IWC should also aim to develop the whaling industry, but the organization has become dysfunctional. That is why Japan withdrew from it.
Japan regards whales as a fishery resource. But people in Australia and other countries see them as a special living creature and close friend of humankind. The two sides maintain nonnegotiable stances.
In order to bridge the gap, it is essential for Japan to tenaciously continue to convey messages drawing on its abundant scientific knowledge of whales.
To properly conserve whales, basic data on biotic resources is essential including population size by species, distribution, feeding habits and nutritional state. Japan has accumulated such data through research whaling.
One example is the blue whale. The reason that the population of blue whales remains low in the Antarctic Ocean is the increasing population of minke whales as the two species are competing for the same food resources. This was revealed by Japan’s research.
Japan has shifted to commercial whaling but we want those concerned to continue scientific research that will help conserve whales. And Japan should actively make results of its research known to the international community.
If the international community mistakenly believes that Japan’s whaling is purely commercially based, the risk of international litigation will increase. Even though Japan’s commercial whaling is limited to within its EEZ, the current global circumstances surrounding whaling remain unpredictable.
More and more young people have never tasted whale meat. Recovering demand for whale meat is one of tasks of commercial whaling.
A mountain of tasks lies ahead. If Japan mishandles them, the international community will next target tuna and eel as it did whale. That would make it more difficult to truly protect cetacean species.