Japan urged to turn whaling fleet around

Monday, 17 November, 2008
(London - November 17, 2008) – The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging Japan to recall its whaling fleet which is heading to Antarctica to hunt almost 1,000 whales.
In defiance of global pressure and several international laws, the government of Japan’s whaling fleet has quietly left harbour without its usual public fanfare and is now en route to the pristine Southern Ocean Sanctuary to harpoon around 850 whales, including 50 endangered fin whales.

Legal analyses by international panels of independent legal experts convened in Paris, London and Sydney have found Japan’s expanding commercial, or so-called ‘scientific’ whaling to be in violation of several international laws and treaties. These include IWC regulations, the Antarctic Treaty System and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Despite a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan hunts whales in Antarctica under the loophole of “scientific whaling”. However, very little research is produced and with expanding hunt quotas and whale meat on sale in supermarkets and restaurants, this is clearly commercial whaling by another name.

The future of whaling is among issues due to be discussed at a closed door meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Cambridge, UK, in December. Japan recently announced that it would again suspend plans to harpoon 50 humpback whales at the request of the IWC while talks continue, but it is not suspending the rest of its “scientific” whaling programme.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “For the 21st consecutive year, Japan is blatantly disregarding international laws and treaties by setting off to kill whales in the Southern Ocean.

“IFAW opposes commercial whaling because it is unacceptably cruel. We urge Japan to abandon its whaling programme and recall its fleet. As a sign of good faith, Japan should not be killing whales while IWC member countries are still debating the future of commercial whaling.”

If Japan refuses to suspend its whaling programme, IFAW believes a legal case should be heard before international courts and tribunals.

Japan’s whalers have killed 8,728 whales in the Southern Ocean since 1987 when they first used the cover of “scientific research” to get around the international whaling ban.

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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