Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling after 30 years of Interruption

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Japan resumes commercial whaling after 30 years of interruption

To explain their decision, the Japanese believe that whales are marine resources such as fish, usable on the basis of scientific criteria.

Japan is officially reviving commercial whaling on Monday, recognizing the six-month-old decision to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and break a three-decade moratorium.

“We believe that whales are marine resources like fish and that they can be used on the basis of scientific criteria,” said an official from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The Nisshin Maru factory ship, flagship of the Japanese whaling fleet, and several other ships will leave the port of Shimonoseki (south-west), where a huge whale statue sits, to hunt cetaceans along the Japanese coast, in the zone of economic exclusivity of the archipelago. Another fleet will depart from Kushiro (northern island of Hokkaido).

“We are all excited about this resumption of fishing,” commented Yoshifumi Kai, who chairs a fishermen’s association.

Canteen menu

The whalers will not kill on the high seas, as they have done for the last thirty years “for scientific reasons”.

Japan had started its “research missions” in Antarctica and the North-East Pacific 32 and 25 years ago respectively, giving up purely commercial fishing, but using a “scientific exception”, tolerated by the IWC.

During these decades, the archipelago has been constantly criticized by the cetacean defenders for its methods considered cruel, while non-lethal methods exist to conduct the studies, according to critics.

In addition, while researchers were certainly the first to look at reported whales, some of their flesh ended up on fish stalls, even though whale consumers did not run the streets.

But there is a willingness to preserve a tradition that remains rooted in a part of the population, especially the elderly who remember that the whale was their only major source of protein during the famine of the post-war period.

And then there is a pride of some cities for which the whaling is as a reason for being if not economic at least cultural and moral.

This is the case of Shimonoseki. Here, since February, the whale is occasionally served in school canteens to introduce children to this culinary tradition of the region and resurrect the consumption habit.

Last stand

Beyond the condemnation of this practice, Patrick Ramage , director of the marine conservation program of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw), sees the resumption of commercial whaling and stopping scientific fishing in Antarctica. sort of a baroud d’honneur of Japan.

“I thought about it for many years. It was a fantasy and now the fantasy comes true. Japan is halting whaling on the high seas, not yet a complete stop but it’s a huge step towards the end”

“This (whaling) industry is going to drown very quickly,” he predicts, believing it is supported by subsidies for a consumer population that will eventually go out.

“We were served in the canteen when I was little, but I do not think I’ll eat it again. I think that Japan should make more choices taking into account the rest of the world that says it’s not good, “said a young Japanese girl of 30 years in Tokyo who wanted to remain anonymous.

Some Japanese experts also believe that the withdrawal of the IWC is a mistake: “Japan must return and defend the principle of sustainable management of resources,” said Masayuki Komatsu, a former negotiator to the international body.

This resumption of hunting by Japan comes at the same time that, on the contrary, Iceland will abstain for the first time since 2002, the two specialized companies having decided to give up the 2019 season.

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