Tag Archives: commercial whaling

Japan to Resume Commercial Whaling

The big news of the day in the topic of whales and whaling is the news that Japan has stated its intention to resume commercial whaling in July 2019. This will coincide with them stepping down as a member nation of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). None of the current members of the IWC do whaling on a commercial basis. So, Japan will join Iceland and Norway as commercial whaling nations in defiance of the voluntary moratorium that was voted on in 1983 and commenced with the 1986 whaling season.

Japan has been conducting Special Permit (Scientific) whaling, via Article VIII of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling, since 1987. They are the only country to do so since 2008. Countries that wish to do this type of whaling apply to their own governments, not the IWC, for their scientific permits. Because the Japanese government subsidizes this whaling, these permits were always going to be approved. One of the requirements of this article in the ICRW, is that the animal cannot simply be discarded. So, the meat of the animal is then available for distribution and consumption.

At no point did Japan publish any peer-reviewed scientific papers as a result of the data they collected. So, in reality, this change of status from scientific to commercial removes any pretense as to the purpose of their whale hunting. What will be different is that they will now remain in their own territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, rather than hunt in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, where commercial whaling is banned.

Japan, Iceland and Norway all maintain that sustainable whaling is possible for select species. Members of the IWC disagree. They signed a non-binding resolution at the 2018 annual symposium, in Brazil, stating that whaling was no longer economically viable or necessary for scientific research.

Commercial whaling ended in the United States in 1972 when the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed. Commercial whaling in New Bedford had ended in 1925 when the two-masted schooner, John R. Manta, returned to port after a three-and-a-half-month voyage to the Hatteras Grounds. The year before, in a much better known story, the Wanderer, a three-masted bark, broke up in a storm on Sow and Pigs Reef off of Cuttyhunk Island, and thus she and her crew did not go a-whaling.

Because this story is such big news, you have no shortage of media outlets you can access to get more details. I encourage you to view more than one. Some stories have some footage that come with a warning before you watch it.