Japan 'hunting almost every sighted whale'

Posted: 22 August 2006

Japan's 'scientific' whaling fleet returned to port yesterday laden with over 2,000 tonnes of whale meat following a three-month hunt that killed almost every whale in sight, the Environment Investigation Agency reports.

After revealing evidence of the scale of slaughter in the north Pacific, the agency said that Japan’s so-called ‘scientific’ whaling hunts had caused ‘widespread devastation’

EIA’s analysis of the latest figures released by Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) show that the hunters killed up to 75 per cent of the whales sighted over more than 10,000 nautical miles of ocean, despite Japan’s frequent claim that its ‘scientific’ hunts are sustainable and will not damage the recovery of populations. Japan’s offshore north Pacific hunt (JARPNII), conducted between 24th May and 16th August, killed 256 minke, sei, sperm and Bryde’s whales.

Between 2002 and 2006, Japan’s north Pacific hunters have reported sightings of just 635 minke whales during dedicated surveys covering vast tracts of open sea. Over this five-year period, Japan has ‘lethally sampled’ 80 per cent of all animals observed. During the 2005 hunt season only 114 animals were sighted and 100 of these – almost 90% - were killed.

“The fact that Japan is killing almost every whale they see is simply unacceptable and clearly unsustainable’ said Claire Bass, EIA Campaigner and member of the Scientific Committee to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The situation for sei whales is also of grave concern. One hundred of the 336 sei whales observed during the latest three month cruise were killed. The population abundance of north Pacific sei whales is not known, but they are listed as endangered by the IUCN (the World Conservation Union).

Whalemeat glut

The 2,000 tonnes of whalemeat from JARPNII will be added to Japan’s ever-increasing stockpile of whalemeat – the bounties of so-called ‘scientific research’. The decreasing demand for whale meat in Japan has forced the Japanese government to cut prices and look for new markets, such as schools, in order to offload the growing stockpiles of meat, says teh agency.

Bass continued, "Japan is evidently happy to adopt a whaling regime that extinguishes every last whale in the ocean – despite a clear lack of demand for whale meat in Japan. Pro-conservation countries must immediately pursue diplomatic action at the highest level to stop Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling.’

Note: Japan hunts six of the twelve species of great whales protected by the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling through a loophole that allows lethal takes for scientific research. Over the past 19 years Japan has reported killing 9,220 great whales in the name of science.

From 2006 onwards Japan’s ‘scientific research’ will involve the annual slaughter of 1,415 great whales, of which up to 1,035 will be taken in the Southern Ocean, and up to 380 in the North Pacific. Japan’s hunt ‘JARPAII’ in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary will start in December 2006 and will include the killing of 50 fin whales – the second largest mammal on earth and classified as ‘endangered’ by the IUCN, and 50 threatened humpback whales.

Related link:

Japan wins whaling vote by majority of one