Experts slam Japan’s new whaling plan: No more whales need to be killed

A panel of top scientists released a report slamming Japan's new whaling program
Monday, 13 April, 2015
Tokyo, Japan

An independent expert review[i] of Japan’s new plan for whaling in the Southern Ocean, published today, failed to back the proposal for further slaughter and concluded that no more whales need to be harpooned for Antarctic research.

In today’s International Whaling Commission (IWC) report, a Panel of top scientists has concluded that Japan has not demonstrated any need to kill any more whales in the Antarctic. This is a major blow to Japan’s latest attempt to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale sanctuary.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Program Director for IFAW, said: “It’s 2015. You don’t need to be a scientific expert to know there’s no need to slaughter whales in the Southern Ocean. We urge Japan to continue the non-lethal research work it embarked on this year, and to present the results of that modern approach to the IWC when it meets in September 2016.” 

In the view of the Panel, the new whaling proposal contained insufficient information about its scientific objectives. The Panel recommended further non-lethal research and analyses that should be completed before any further lethal research can be considered. The Panel’s finding is also summarized in a letter published in the leading science journal Nature [ii]. 

The new program, NEWREP-A (New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean) includes plans to harpoon up to 333 minkes per year for the next 12 years. Earlier self-allocated Antarctic quotas allowed for around 1,000 whales to be hunted but in reality far fewer were taken in the last few years - 252 minke whales in the 2013/14 season.

In March 2014 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Japan’s program of whaling in the Antarctic (JARPA II, which ran from 2005) was not “for purposes of scientific research”[iii], ruling it was illegal and must stop.

Japan initially abided by the ICJ judgment by formally discontinuing the JARPA II program, but shortly after stated that it would prepare a replacement program and in November 2014 announced a new plan for ‘research whaling’ in the Antarctic to begin in late 2015. The Panel’s finding that the new whaling proposal lacks clear scientific objectives means that it would also be illegal under the criteria established by the court.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has long encouraged Japan to turn to humane research instead of killing whales for sham science.

“The ICJ ruling ensured that for the first season in more than a century, whales in the Southern hemisphere were not hunted for commercial purposes. It is disappointing, and beneath the dignity of so great a nation, that Japan’s fisheries bureaucrats would defy the world’s highest court and try to re-start illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean,” continued Ramage.

The IWC’s Independent Expert Review was held in Tokyo in February this year and was tasked with reviewing Japan’s NEWREP-A but according to very narrow criteria that were put in place prior to the ICJ judgment.

In September 2014, the IWC strongly backed the ICJ judgment and adopted a process to ensure that any future whaling permits are only issued for purposes that are genuinely scientific according to the criteria established by the Court. The resolution specifies that proposals for scientific takes be evaluated by its Scientific Committee and reviewed by the Commission for consistency with the ICJ criteria, before they are issued.

In announcing the program to recommence Antarctic whaling in late 2015, Japan is ignoring this IWC review process. Japan has also ignored the Court’s ruling that the issuing country cannot be sole arbiter of the validity of its own permits.

The plans are set to be further examined by the Scientific Committee of the IWC when it meets in San Diego, US, in May but the next full plenary meeting of the IWC will not take place until September 2016.

IFAW opposes all commercial or so-called scientific whaling as there is no humane way to kill a whale. Instead, IFAW supports whale watching as a humane and sustainable alternative which is better for whales and coastal communities.

[i] Report of the Expert Panel to review the proposal by Japan for NEWREP-A (first register with to view document)

[ii]  Nature Vol. 520 p. 157, April 9. (paywall).

[iii] International Court of Justice ruling:

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 Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation