Japan - The Rogue Nation out to Kill more Whales
A minke whale is unloaded at a port in Kushiro in 2013. Photo: AP
Whaling ships left port in north-eastern Japan, early April, 2015 to embark on another government-backed 'scientific' whale killing program in waters of the north-western Pacific and another new Antarctic whaling program is planned for later this year despite rulings from an international court and an expert panel.
The four ships that left port in Japan could kill up to 51 minke whales in a few short weeks as part of this so-called 'research' program.
Although a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Japan has killed 13,000 whales since a ban was placed on Commercial whaling in 1986 by exploiting a loophole allowing the killing of whales for 'Scientific Research' purposes.
In a landmark legal challenge, Australia initiated proceedings through the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that Japan was pursuing a large-scale program of whaling and was using science as a thinly veiled cover for commercial whaling in the Antarctic waters.
Finally, in March 2014, the ICJ ruling banned current Japanese scientific hunts in the Antarctic. ICJ presiding judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said, "Japan shall revoke any existent authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to JARPA II and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the program." The ICJ decided that the hunts were nothing more than commercial whaling masquerading as science.
But it isn't over. Japan submitted a new plan to the IWC to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean later this year. Under this new plan they aim to kill almost 4,000 minke whales over 12 years. In a unprecedented move, a panel of experts from the IWC condemned Japan's newly-revised plans. Never before has a body associated with the Scientific Committee told Japan that they have failed to demonstrate a need for killing whales.
In particular, the panel argued that the Japanese scientists had not provided sufficient information to evaluate either of their proposed research objectives. It recommended that Japan suspend its scientific whaling program for 2 or more years while improving the proposal, and test the use of nonlethal methods, such as using biopsy darts to retrieve blubber samples from living whales, to address their questions.
Australian scientists have condemned Japan's plan saying Japan has started with the method (lethal sampling) before deciding on what research they would do. Dr Bill de la Mare, of the Australian Antarctic Division, the leader of the Australian scientists says, "We do not consider that Japan's case has been made. The continuation of lethal sampling is not justified on scientific grounds. Nor are there any demonstrations of how the lethal data will lead to their objectives being attained."
Japanese officials, however, are unbowed. They agree to include some of the panel's recommendations in a revised proposal to be presented to IWC's full Scientific Committee in May, along with additional data. But in its response to the expert panel's review, the government of Japan said that this year's nonlethal study, "has been completed and it has demonstrated the need for lethal sampling."
Japan doesn't need approval from the IWC's Scientific Committee to forge ahead, because the IWC's "Research Whaling" clause leaves it up to each country to oversee such studies.
Whales In Danger