"Scientific" whaling

Page - December 19, 2006
In 1994, a sanctuary for whales was set in the Antarctic Ocean area. But since 1987, the Japanese government has conducted an annual whale hunt in the Antarctic under the guise of "scientific" whaling.

On Mission Bay beach in Auckland, NZ Greenpeace supporters take symbolic action against Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean.

In fact the announcement of the moratorium was met by an increase in the "scientific" catch in the Antarctic by 100 whales that year.

At the June 2005 IWC meeting, the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) announced plans to double its catch of minke whales, and the list of great whale species hunted was extended to include 10 endangered Antarctic fin whales from 2005/06, and humpbacks from the 2007/08 whaling season.

So what is wrong with a "scientific" whale hunt?

Professor Kasuya of Teikyo University of Science and Technology in Japan, has taken issue with the Japanese Government's arguments that it needs to kill whales to study them.

He 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.

There are many ways to conduct whale research which are non-lethal.

Professor Kasuya gave his analysis in the Mainichi Shinbun newspaper in October 2005.

He says the annual expenses of the research program amount to around 6 billion yen, or more than US$50 million, of which 5 billion yen is covered by the sales of whale meat produced from the catch by the scientific whaling. Government subsidy and other funding make up the remaining 1 billion yen.

He points out that without the earnings from the meat sales, the whaling organisation that undertakes the government-commissioned research program would be unable to continue operation, and the shipping company that provides the fleet for the program would not be able to recover costs for whaling vessel construction.  

"This is nothing other than an economic activity. It leaves no room for researchers to carry out research based on their own ideas. It certainly does not conform to the scientific purpose authorized by the Convention," Says Professor Kasuya.

An increasing problem for the industry in Japan is the declining appetite for whale meat in Japan, resulting in a public relations offensive to convince the public that whaling is culturally and economically important to Japan.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency also falsely claims that whales eat too many fish and threaten the conservation of fish stocks - an assertion for which there is no scientific basis.

Industrial fishing, not whales, is the cause of the global decline of fish stocks, a fact that has long been established.