Japan and whaling

The Japanese whaling industry is sinking further and further into scandal, debt and corruption. Money meant for victims of the 2011 tsunami was siphoned off for the whalers, activists risked years in jail while officials took bribes and illegal meat and now even other countries are taking Japan to court.

Japan’s whaling fleet sails at the end of every year to the Southern Ocean to kill whales in an internationally designated whale sanctuary. The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary has been in place since 1994. The very same year Japan announced it would  increase its catch of whales there  – all in the name of science, they claimed. Over the years thousands of whales have been killed in the sanctuary.

Three quarters of the world’s remaining whales can be found in the southern hemisphere and the myth of scientifically studying the whales is yet another deceit of the whaling industry.

Over the last twenty years Greenpeace has sent numerous ships to the Southern Ocean and activists have regularly put themselves between the harpoons and the whales. But in recent years a more concentrated campaign focused in Japan has begun to see major change in the perception of the whaling programme at home, despite it coming at great risk and cost to campaigners who where threatened with 10 years in jail for exposing corruption in the whaling programme.

It was not until after the Greenpeace campaigner’s conviction that the Fisheries Agency of Japan admitted that at least five officials had been involved in illegally taking whale meat as bribes and for profit. We are still waiting for the full scale investigation of the whale meat scandal.  

We are also still waiting for the whaling industry to pay back to money it took from the 2011 tsunami relief fund. The Japanese whaling programme costs Japanese taxpayers 1.2 billion yen every year - that's about €10 million or US$12 million - just in direct subsidies. It loses money every year and in 2011 US$30million was diverted by the government from the Fukushima recovery fund to pay off whaling industry debtors.

In 2012, even more money was being promised to the whaling industry by the government of Japan, even though the number of whales caught is going down, sales have dropped 30% and the number of tonnes of old meat being stockpiled is going up.

And if the government is not spending money on the whalers directly, it is spending money on buying membership and votes at the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Over the years numerous countries have joined the IWC after being coached and funded by Japanese government and whaling officials, in order to try to sway the decisions in favour of a resumption of commercial whaling.

Not surprising then, that in 2013 Australia – despite being one of Japan’s closest trading partners – took Japan to the International Court of Justice  over its whaling programme. A key argument by Australia is that if all nations were allowed to abuse the scientific whaling allowance in the original rules of the IWC from 1946, at the same rate as Japan is, then more than 80,000 whales would be being killed every year. Why should there be one rule for Japan and a different one for everyone else?  We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.