Japan Says It Has a Right to Hunt Whales

Despite an international court ruling against the hunt, Japan may be gearing up to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean later in the year.

A minke whale. (Photo: tombenson76/flickr)

Jun 22, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

A Japan whaling official told reporters on Monday that his country has the right to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean during the coming Antarctic summer, despite an international court ruling against it and no clear permission from the International Whaling Commission.

Reports from the press conference differ on whether Japan will or will not resume its whale hunt later this year. Japan’s representative to the IWC, Joji Morishita, called the country’s current whaling proposal to the International Whaling Commission a “research plan,” according to a reporter for the journal Science.

Morishita’s statements came just a few days after the IWC’s scientific advisory committee ended its annual meeting in California without offering a unified opinion on Japan’s proposal to hunt 330 minke whales a year in the Southern Ocean between 2015 and 2027.

Japan is a member of the committee.

Japan insisted that killing the whales would be the only way it could gather certain scientific data on the minke population and diet.

However, an expert panel advised the committee last week that Japan had failed to justify killing the whales on scientific grounds.

The committee deferred a potential decision until its next meeting, in 2016, but 44 committee members from 13 countries signed a statement agreeing that there was no scientific reason to kill whales for research. They released it as an attachment to the committee’s final report.

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Japan submitted the reworked plan because in 2014, the United Nations’ International Court of Justice ruled that its earlier whale hunts were harvests of whale meat for commercial sale, not efforts to collect scientific data, despite the country’s claims to the contrary.

“The ICJ ruling applied to Japan’s previous whaling program, not this new proposal. So technically it would not be a violation of the letter of the ruling but could be argued to violate the spirit of it,” said Molly Herrmann, a spokesperson for the World Wildlife Fund, which opposes all hunting of whales in the Southern Ocean.

So, Why Should You Care? Many nations and conservation groups oppose whale hunting on ethical grounds and say the treaty loophole that allows hunting to be justified for “scientific research” should be closed. While the minke whale is not considered endangered globally, it’s unclear how many of the species live in the Southern Ocean, which is one of its primary feeding grounds.