Japanese fleet heads to Antarctica to harpoon whales – despite pending World Court ruling

Monday, 9 December, 2013
Brussels, Belgium

The Japanese whaling fleet has left port for Antarctica to train its harpoons on around 1,000 whales – despite a pending World Court ruling on whether or not its actions are lawful.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging the Japanese government to recall the fleet and respectfully await the imminent decision from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Australia’s legal case against Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling.

IFAW opposes the cruel and unnecessary practice of commercial whaling and was pleased to see the issue brought before the ICJ for scrutiny.

Japan hunts whales in the seas surrounding Antarctica for so-called science despite a worldwide ban on commercial whaling.

IFAW Australia’s Marine Campaigns Manager, Matthew Collis, said: “Japan’s whaling produces sham science and is merely commercial whaling by another name. To launch its whaling fleet while a judgement is still pending from the ICJ shows a lack of respect for the legal process that Australia has initiated. Prime Minister Abbott should be calling on his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Abe, to recall the whaling fleet and await the court’s judgment”.

According to Japanese media reports, the country’s whaling fleet is en route to the Southern Ocean Sanctuary to kill up to 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales, despite global opposition and a struggling market. The Japanese government provides millions of dollars a year in taxpayer subsidies to maintain the ageing fleet.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “Japan risks further damage to its international reputation by pressing ahead with its Antarctic whaling while the World Court continues its deliberations on the matter.

“Japan is also harpooning its own interests by throwing away more taxpayers’ yen to prop up an industry which is clearly dying in the water. This money would be better spent supporting the country’s whale watching industry.”

In a report published in February of this year, The Economics of Japanese Whaling, IFAW showed how the Japanese government even diverted tsunami relief funds to support whaling. Annual government subsidies for Japanese whaling average around 782 million yen (US $9.78m), but in 2011 this increased by around 2.28 billion yen (US $28.55m).

There is no humane way to kill a whale; footage of Japanese whaling has shown whales taking more than half an hour to die. Much of the meat is subsequently stockpiled or sold cheaply to hospitals and schools.

In contrast to a poor market for whale meat, whale watching offers a profitable as well as humane alternative to the cruelty of whaling, worth around US$2.1 billion annually to coastal communities worldwide.

In Japan alone, whale watching generated around US $22 million in 2008. Around 30 whale watching operators currently work from a dozen locations around the Japanese coast, demonstrating that responsible whale watching is the only truly sustainable ‘use’ of whales.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation