Japanese whaling fleet ready to depart

Assault on commercial whaling ban

Feature story - 6 November, 2003
Greenpeace has learned that five vessels will set forth shortly from Shimonoseki in Japan, perhaps as early as Friday, to hunt whales once again. They continue to do so despite a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling, under the false pretence that their purpose is "research."

Greenpeace action against Japanese whaling in Southern Ocean.

"They pretend it is scientific research but the body they say they are doing it for [the International Whaling Commission] has asked them not to do it," said John Frizell of Greenpeace. "The scientists have said they don't need the data. The real product is whale meat which will be sold on the open market."

Commercial whaling during the last century decimated most of the world's whale populations. Estimates suggest that between 1925, when the first whaling factory ship was introduced, and 1975, more than 1.5 million whales were killed in total. Whalers would hunt one whale population after another, moving from species to species as populations declined from exploitation. After repeated requests from the world community, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) agreed to a moratorium on commercial whaling that came into effect in 1986.

Today, we are perilously close to witnessing a return to large-scale commercial whaling. Norway continues its commercial whaling programme in the North Atlantic, openly flouting the IWC's moratorium. Japan hunts whales under the guise of "scientific" whaling, even though the whale meat is sold on the market for profit. Iceland has announced a three-year "scientific" whaling programme that failed to meet the approval of the IWC's Scientific Committee and which the US has termed "useless." In the past three years, all these nations have increased the resources they devote to their whaling programmes, and are aggressively pushing to lift the ban on commercial whaling.

Since 1987, Japan has conducted its 'scientific hunt' annually in the Antarctic. This hunt is in reality a commercial enterprise: the whale meat and blubber that comes from Japan's whale 'research' is sold commercially in Japan at a value of four billion yen every year.

"Calling the programme 'scientific' is an insult to science", added Frizell. "The Government of Japan should call it off."

Stop Iceland from becoming the next Japan

Greenpeace is currently campaigning to stop Icelandic whaling before it reaches the levels of the Japanese hunt: 1,268 whales last year. Iceland announced in August a resumption of whaling after a 14-year hiatus.

Iceland is taking 38 whales this year. The programme will expand to take 250 whales, including sei and fin whales as well as minkes, in 2004. The government would like to begin full-scale commercial whaling in 2006, which could lead minke whales to the same fate that has befallen other whale species: the brink of extinction.

But within Iceland, whale-watching has become a major tourist industry, and nature tourism of many varieties has flourished on this rugged, volcanic, glaciated Island.

Many people believe that the Government of Iceland should look to other forms of economic development, such as tourism, which don't destroy whales. And some Icelanders believe that their country will attract more visitors by positioning their country as the land of the living whale, and want to see the hunt stopped.

Take action

You can help stop Icelandic whaling by pledging to visit the island nation if they stop whaling. Already more than 10,000 people have taken the pledge. According to the Iceland tourist industry, every visitor represents an average of US$ 1544 in tourist dollars. 10,000 additional travellers to Iceland could mean US$ 17 million in additional income to the Icelandic economy. And when you consider that whaling only brought in US$ 3-4 million in its heyday, the economics becomes inarguable: whales are worth more to Iceland alive. We need YOU to help drive our pledge up to 100,000 participants: pledge to visit Iceland when the government renounces whaling.

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More information

Greenpeace's campaign to save the whales.