One of the most remarkable facts about Japan's two decades of 'scientific whaling' is that it has managed to kill thousands of whales - but produced no credible science.
Japanese "research" vessel.
During the 18 years of the JARPA programme, 6,778 minke whales were killed, ironically to determine their natural mortality rate (M). However, a group of international scientists - including the Japanese scientists who carried out the research - later agreed that the values of the data collected were so wide that not only was M unknown, even a value of M=0 could not ruled out - in other words, Japan's research left open the possibility minke whales might even be immortal!
Japan's Fisheries Agency, the government department tasked with the whaling issue, also claims that whales "eat too many fish", and threaten the conservation of fish stocks - and by extension, food security. Japan may be the world's largest net importer of food, but the "whales eat fish" assertion has no scientific basis - whale populations are at a fraction of their pre-whaling numbers, while the biggest impact on fish stocks today comes from overfishing - by humans.
The reality behind the 'science'
Japan's research has been continually dismissed by the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) scientific committee as 'unnecessary', and was condemned in a resolution passed at the 2007 meeting, when a majority of countries voted for Japan to suspend indefinitely the lethal aspects of its research program.
In an article in the Mainichi Shinbun newspaper in October 2005, Professor Kasuya says, "The Institute of Cetacean Research argues that lethal research is the only appropriate method to collect the needed data. But examination of biopsy samples reveals the amount of blubber or reproductive rate, and analysis of faeces provides information on what whales are eating."
In reality, of course, the 'scientific whaling' programme is a way of keeping a foot in the door for Japan, while pushing for a return to commercial whaling at the IWC and actively marketing the 'byproduct' of its research - the whale meat at home in Japan. By keeping its whaling fleet functioning, it hopes that, sometime in the future, commercial whaling will resume. Greenpeace pledges to ensure this doesn't occur.