The Nisshin Maru, one of the Japanese catcher vessels, transferring a Minke whale to the factory ship in the Southern ocean.
The Japanese whaling fleet returned to port this week after a
three month hunt in the North Pacific ocean catching 100 Minke
whales, 50 Bryde's whales, 39 endangered Sei whales and five Sperm
whales, a total of 194 whales, in addition to the 440 Minke whales
caught in the Southern ocean earlier this year. This is the first
time in more than 25 years that Sei whales have been hunted. Sei
whales were heavily exploited during the last century and are now
classified as an endangered species by the Convention for Migratory
The Norwegian fleet has also returned from whaling in the North
Atlantic ocean with a catch of 634 Minke whales. Together the
Japanese and Norwegian catch is the largest annual catch since 1988
when most whaling under objection to the moratorium ended.
But while the Japanese whaling fleet celebrated the return of
their catcher vessel the Nisshin-maru at a small ceremony in its
home port of Kushiro, Japan, countries meeting in Germany over the
Convention for Migratory Species (CMS) agreed by consensus to list
seven whales species as endangered or needing conservation.
The CMS, which conserves migratory species over the whole of
their range, brings conservation benefits for whales making it
easier to develop a coordinated approach to the conservation of
these highly migratory species wherever they go and provide a
framework for the development of future regional agreements.
Fin, Sei and Sperm whales received an Appendix 1 listing,
recognising them as endangered. They join the Blue, Humpback,
Bowhead, Southern Right and Northern Right whales which are already
on the list. Minke, Bryde's, Pygmy Right and Orca whales received
Appendix 2 listings, recognising that their conservation status
would significantly benefit from international cooperation.
Norway, which hunts whales commercially, recorded a formal
reservation to the decision but did not insist on a vote. Japan,
the world's largest whaling country, is not a member of Convention
for Migratory Species.
The listing of these whale species by the CMS recognises that
the status of many populations is uncertain and the fact that whale
populations are now threatened by a bewildering array of
environmental threats including climate change and toxic pollution.
For example, new surveys indicate that the numbers of Minke whales
in the Antarctic have more than halved since the previous survey in
But despite the endangered listing of some whales, the Japanese
and Norwegian governments will continue their whaling programs
unless they begin to feel the heat of international pressure.
For the past 15 years, the Fisheries Agency of Japan has
subsidised the hunt for whales through a private organisation set
up by Japan's whaling industry under the guise of "scientific
Exploiting a loophole in the rules of the International Whaling
Commission that allows countries to issue permits to kill whales
for lethal research, the whale meat from this 'research' ends up
for sale on the domestic market at a value of about four billion
yen each year.
This hunt has nothing to do with science, it is all about making
money. Last summer's hunt in the North Pacific concentrated on
filling the Bryde's whale quota, the species with the highest
But trade in whale products would make the industry even more
Governments will meeting Chile in November for the Conventional
of International Trade in Endangered Species and the Japan
government is using this as another opportunity to attempt to open
up trade in whale products. The Japanese government is proposing to
downlist northern Minke and Bryde's whales which are currently on
Appendix 1 prohibiting international trade in these species.
Watch the site in the coming month to find out what you can do
to stop the downlisting and prevent the trade in endangered whale