Japanese workers flense a whale on the deck of a factory ship Nisshin Maru in the Southern Ocean.
Plans by the Government of Japan to 'sharply' increase its take
ofminke whales, and to resume catching both fin and humpback whales
underthe guise of scientific research, are a deadly slap in the
face for theinternational community, making a mockery of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) and internationalefforts to
The secret proposal from Japan, which has been submitted
forconsideration at the IWC meeting beginning on May 27 in Ulsan,
Korea,will see new "scientific" quotas with a minke whale take of
880 in theAntarctic in addition to a catch of some 10 humpback and
fin whales.Let's just remember here that populations of whales in
the Antarcticare at only 10 percent of what they were before
industrial whaling - itseems ludicrous to kill them to count
them,or find out what they eat. Then again, it's not so ludicrous
if you're going to makemillions from the meat.
In 2003, the Fisheries' Agency's "research" whalers reported
revenuesof over US$50 million from a catch of 700 whales. Their
catch this yearis expected to be 1,300.
Our resident whale expert, John Frizell, said "For too long the
'scientific' loophole has provided commercial whalerswith a 'fig
leaf' of respectability. The IWC should move to end thescandal of
scientific whaling and end the scientific exemption."
The submission to the IWC by Japan's Fisheries Agency is
designated "inconfidence". But since when was the science of
environmental protectionand nature conservation best served by
secrecy? If it's so scientific,why are they trying to hide it? Why
not post it on the internet so theworld wide community of whale
researchers can review it. Ifthey're really stuck, perhaps the
public could then suggest ways to dothe studies non-lethally?
The scientific whaling loophole isn't the only problem plaguing
theIWC's efforts. Over the last month the Rainbow Warrior has been
inKorea to highlight another flaw in international efforts to ban
thehunting of whales. In 2003 the Korean fishing fleet
"accidentally"netted 84 whales, which were legally traded and
processed for domesticconsumption. Korean Government statistics
show that between ten and ahundred times more whales are
"accidentally" caught in Korea than incountries that do not have a
domestic whale meat market (Japan has asimiliarly high rate of
"accidental" catches, otherwise known asbycatch).
Even worse for these whales: scientists believe that the
Koreanpopulation of minke whales is in serious decline. Research
published bythe well-respected Royal Society shows not only that
minke whales inJapanese and Korean waters are declining; but that
they will continueto decline even if hunting does not resume, due
to these high levels of"accidental" bycatch - and the IWC
It has also been revealed that Korea is, again on the quiet,
proposingto build a whale processing factory in the very city where
the IWC isto be held, which could be indicative that, like Japan,
they intend topursue whaling and brand it "science".
For more information on our presence in Korea and the "Whale
out our weblog.