Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling further criticised by expert panel

Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling further criticised by expert panel
Monday, 3 April, 2017
Tokyo, Japan – 03 April 2017

Japan’s so-called scientific whaling has received further criticism from international experts who found Japan does not need to kill whales for ‘scientific research’.

In a report published today (Monday) the Expert Panel appointed by the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) Scientific Committee concluded that Japan’s ‘lethal sampling’ of whales, which it will continue to hunt with explosive harpoons in the North Pacific under its ‘NEWREP-NP’ programme, was not justified.

The panel made a clear recommendation that the ‘lethal sampling components of the programme should not occur until the additional work identified in its report is undertaken and reviewed’. The announcement comes just three days after the Japanese whaling fleet returned to port after taking its full quota of 333 minke whales as part of its Southern Ocean ‘NEWREP-A’ whaling programme.

The main finding of the latest panel, which convened in Tokyo earlier this year, echoed the conclusion of the last IWC Scientific Committee Expert Panel in February 2015, which concluded that the case for killing whales in the Southern Ocean had not been made, and that certain prior analyses were needed. At its meeting in June 2015 the IWC’s Scientific Committee found that the necessary work had not been carried out or was incomplete.

Matthew Collis, Acting Director of International Environmental Agreements at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said: “To hear yet another Expert Panel conclude that Japan’s scientific whaling is unjustified highlights even more the pointlessness of these unnecessary and cruel hunts. We encourage Japan to join the global consensus for whale conservation and embrace non-lethal whale research.

Japan's catch of sei whales, the main target of its North Pacific whaling, is also a breach of international law because it is listed on Appendix I of CITES as an endangered species. 

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in March 2014 that Japan’s so-called scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean was illegal and not for the purposes of science. The ICJ judgment was strongly backed by the IWC.

Collis added: “The bottom line is that another panel of scientific experts again found that Japan had not shown that the proposed kill of whales would yield any scientific benefits. It is time that Japan acknowledged expert opinion as well as the views of the international community who are opposed to the cruel and outdated practice of whaling. If Japan continues to pursue its whaling agenda in the face of such overwhelming opposition, anti-whaling governments may need to bring international law to bear on Japan once more.”

IFAW has long encouraged Japan to turn to benign research that does not involve killing whales. This generates results of far greater importance to the international community than the limited research from dead whales.

Japan’s new proposal for North Pacific whaling increases the number of sei whales to be killed each year, from 90 to 140, and increases the number of minke whales to be killed from 102 to 174 in total. The North Pacific whaling season is due to start shortly.

Its NEWREP-A programme, first announced in November 2014, set out its plans to harpoon 333 minke whales each season in an expanded Antarctic killing zone, with the aim of taking almost 4,000 whales in total over 12 years.

IFAW opposes all commercial or so-called scientific whaling as there is no humane way to kill a whale.



Notes to Editors –


The full NEWREP-NP Expert Panel report can be found here


Following the ICJ judgment, Japan changed the number of whales that were killed in the North Pacific under the JARPNII programme. Between 2014 and 2016 Japan had been whaling in the North Pacific without any proper scientific review of whether the number of whales taken was reasonable.


Japan’s whaling in the North Pacific continues to be of conservation concern. The recent expert panel review expressed concern that even using the proponents’ methods (which ignore some of the possible situations that the Scientific Committee has been concerned about), the results showed a decline in J-stock minke whales for some scenarios.


Coastal populations of minke whales around Japan are already threatened by high levels of bycatch and NEWREP-NP adds to this threat.


In February 2013, 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).


The findings demonstrate that while whaling is unprofitable and catering to an increasingly shrinking and ageing market, whale watching is, by contrast, a growth industry.


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


IFAW encourages Japan to join the 10-nation SORP (Southern Ocean Research Partnership) founded by Australia to coordinate non-lethal whale research.


About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter


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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
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