Environmental and animal-welfare groups scored an important yet somewhat empty victory this week: The International Whaling Commission voted to support tighter regulations on Japanese whaling—a practice long conducted under the guise of “scientific research.”
But it’s a decision that Japan intends to ignore, as the country has announced plans to continue its controversial whaling program.
“We are pleased to see governments finally taking the steps necessary to ensure that so-called ‘scientific’ whaling is no longer exploited for commercial whaling purposes,” Leigh Henry, senior policy adviser for the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement. “However, we are disappointed by Japan’s intentions to resume their hunt in the Southern Ocean in 2015, which circumvents the new rules established today.”
The Japanese embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, the small victory was offset by a vote to permit the slaughter of more than 800 whales by indigenous people in Greenland over the next four years.
The two votes were held this week at the IWC’s meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia.
The resolution, put forth by New Zealand, requested a ban on special permits for whale hunting granted under any scientific research program until the IWC’s Scientific Committee has reviewed the program and the commission has approved it. But under international treaty rules, Japan is not bound by the resolution.
The country immediately announced it will resume whaling in the Southern Ocean in 2015. Japan had said it would observe a one-year moratorium on the hunt after the International Court of Justice ruled in March that the country was in violation of IWC regulations on scientific whaling.
The court said Japan was trying to hide its commercial sales of whale meat under the veil of scientific research and ruled that the country must immediately cease its whale operations in the Southern Ocean.
Though the IWC banned commerical whaling in 1986, Japan has skirted the law by claiming the more than 10,000 whales killed by its fleet since then were taken purely for research purposes.
“Modern research techniques make killing whales in the name of science obsolete,” Aimée Leslie, head of the WWF delegation to the meeting, said.
The IWC gave Greenlanders permission to kill more than 207 whales per year from 2015 to 2018. That includes 176 minke, 19 fin, 10 humpback, and two bowhead whales. Opponents said much of the whale meat ends up being consumed outside native villages.