A win for whales and a blow against Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling at the International Whaling Commission

Thursday, 27 October, 2016
Portoroz, Slovenia

Anti-whaling nations scored a victory on the penultimate day of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia, today as a resolution was passed to ensure tighter scrutiny of Japan’s permitting process for its so-called scientific whaling.

A total of 64 member countries are attending the first biennial meeting since Japan resumed scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean despite an earlier landmark judgment from the World Court ruling its Antarctic whaling was illegal and must stop. Australia and New Zealand successfully tabled a resolution calling for improved review process for whaling under special permit (for scientific whaling).

Passed by 34 votes to 17 (10 abstentions) it aims to ensure the IWC is fully engaged on the issue and prevent countries from simply issuing their own permits in contravention of the whaling convention. Despite the 2014 World Court ruling, against the findings of expert scientists and the IWC, and flying in the face of international condemnation, in 2015/16, Japan’s whaling fleet returned to the Southern Ocean Sanctuary and slaughtered 333 minke whales, including more than 200 pregnant females.

Matt Collis, IFAW’s IWC Team Leader, said: “We welcome this result as an important reaction to Japan unilaterally issuing its own permits for so-called scientific whaling, in clear defiance of the World Court’s unequivocal ruling.

“Japan’s decision to defy this judgment and train its harpoons on 333 more whales which should have been safe from slaughter provoked international outcry and it was only right that IWC members should respond by demanding better scrutiny of Japan’s future scientific whaling plans. We all know that scientific whaling is sham science, and simply commercial whaling by another name.

“Allowing Japan to independently issue any further permits to slaughter whales under the guise of science would make a greater mockery of the World Court ruling and the Commission itself. As the IWC transitions into a modern conservation body for whales, we urge Japan to also move forward and abandon once and for all the cruel and outdated practice of killing whales instead of protecting them.”

Far more valuable data can be gathered from studying live whales rather than dead ones. IFAW encourages Japan to join the 12-country strong Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP) to coordinate non-lethal research.

Earlier in the day, the IWC Chairman had attempted to cut short debate on the floor regarding Japan’s special permit whaling; only highlighting the lack of clarity and need for clearer process in dealing with this highly controversial issue.

Countries which were able to speak and voice their opposition to Japan’s scientific whaling included the US, Netherlands on behalf of EU member states, Argentina on behalf of Latin American countries, New Zealand, Australia and India.

As part of its current Antarctic whaling programme, Japan intends to kill almost 4,000 whales over the next 11 years. Should they again defy IWC process by whaling in the Southern Ocean this year, IFAW calls on countries to take further legal action against Japan.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Responsible whale watching offers a humane and economically viable alternative that is better for whales and provides more sustainable livelihoods for people.

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