Japan’s whaling vessels heading to Antarctic – but without their harpoons

archive photo © IFAW
Wednesday, 7 January, 2015
Tokyo, Japan

A smaller than usual Japanese whaling fleet is due to leave port in Shimonoseki tomorrow (Thursday) to carry out research in the Antarctic - but no whales will be harpooned after the World Court ruled last year that its ‘scientific’ whaling in the Southern Ocean was illegal.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency announced that a reduced number of boats will instead head to the Antarctic to carry out sighting surveys, biopsy work and photo identification of whales led by the country’s Institute of Cetacean Research.

Two catcher boats, without their harpoons, will depart first before being joined by Japan’s factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, which sets off on January 16, for the non-lethal research expected to last until March 28.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has long encouraged Japan to turn to humane research instead of killing whales for sham science and welcomed the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in March 2014 which ensured that for the first season in more than a century, whales in the Southern hemisphere would not be hunted for commercial purposes.

However, despite its initial vow to abide by the ICJ decision, and current moves to carry out non-lethal research, in November last year the Japanese government revealed details of a new proposal, called NEWREP-A, which would see 333 minke whales harpooned in the name of science in the Southern Ocean from later this year. IFAW urges Japan to withdraw this proposal.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Programme Director for IFAW, said: “While we congratulate Japan on its shift towards humane, non-lethal research on whales and welcome the fact that no whales will be slaughtered in the Southern Ocean this season, sadly Japan has not discarded its harpoons for good.

“Japan’s new whaling plan fails utterly to meet the standard established by the World Court or to live up to the earlier rhetoric of Japanese officials. Japan needs to acknowledge that its cruel and unnecessary whaling must stop once and for all.”

Japan’s new whaling plans are set to be examined by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) when it meets in San Diego, US, in May. The IWC strongly backed the ICJ ruling when member countries met in Slovenia in September.

Ramage added: “This plan should be dead on arrival when it reaches the IWC Scientific Committee. If it were to go ahead, it would mean more blood in the water, an expanded Antarctic killing zone, and a sharp increase over the actual number of whales taken in recent 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.

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.

Ends

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on +44 (0)20 7587 6708, mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org. Alternatively visit www.ifaw.org

Notes to Editors –

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.

Despite a global ban on commercial whaling, Japan 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.

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.

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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