IFAW calls on Japan to end its cruel whaling for good as fleet returns with lowest catch

Friday, 5 April, 2013
Brussels, Belgium

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging Japan to abandon its dying whaling industry as the fleet returns to port with its lowest Antarctic catch since ‘scientific whaling’ began in 1987.

In December last year, the country’s whaling fleet set off for the Southern Ocean Sanctuary with the intention of training its harpoons on almost 1,000 whales; 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales. Japan’s Fisheries Agency announced today (Friday) that the season’s catch was 103 Antarctic minke whales and no fin whales.

The previous season’s reported catch was 266 minke whales and one fin whale.

In February, IFAW launched a report, The Economics of Japanese Whaling, which showed that the failing whaling industry in Japan is propped up by millions of dollars a year in public money. Annual subsidies average around 782 million yen (US $9.78m).

Japanese whaling is seen as a stumbling block in current negotiations between the EU and Japan for a free trade agreement. The INTA committee in the European Parliament recently accepted six amendments from MEP David Martin (S&D) calling for, amongst other things, an “end to so-called scientific whaling and support (for) the designation of substantial regions of ocean and seas as sanctuaries.

“Europeans and EU legislation are clear. There is no need, desire or justification for the cruelty of whaling,” said Sonja Van Tichelen, IFAW’s EU Regional Director. “Japan must understand that their insistence on whaling can only harm EU-Japanese relations and could seriously hamper their efforts to negotiate a free trade deal.”

Despite a global ban on commercial whaling, Japan has continued to hunt whales under the loophole of ‘scientific whaling’, yet while the meat is put on sale in restaurants and supermarkets, little science has been produced from the slaughter of these animals.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “Whaling is an economic loser and with little appetite for whale meat these days, we urge the Japanese government to support its growing whale watching industry as a humane and sustainable alternative.”

Whale watching currently generates around US$2.1 billion annually for coastal communities around the world. In Japan alone, whale watching generated around US $22 million in 2008. There are currently around 30 whale watching operators working from a dozen locations around the Japanese coast.

 “Japan’s so-called scientific whaling really is dying in the water. Whaling is not only cruel but as our recent report proves, extremely costly to the Japanese taxpayer,” concluded Ramage.

Whales face more threats today than at any other time in history. IFAW opposes commercial whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Footage of previous Japanese whaling has shown whales taking up to half an hour to die after being shot with explosive harpoons.

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Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
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Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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