Japan will resume commercial whaling this week, despite global outcry from hundreds of conservation groups and activists.
Several months ago Japan announced its intention to leave the International Whaling Commission after its efforts to convince the group to allow whaling to resume failed. On Monday morning the decision became final and Japan sent several whaling boats out into the ocean. Within hours they had killed two grey minke whales.
“Today is the best day,” said Yoshifumi Kai, head of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association. “It was worth waiting for 31 years.”
According to estimates by the fisheries agency in Japan, just five of the whaling vessels based out of Kushiro will kill 227 whales between now and late December.
In the past week several groups and individuals, including celebrities Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais and scientist Jane Goodall, have sent letters to the G20 leaders asking for an “international whaling intervention” that will end all commercial whaling.
“We see the resumption of Japan’s commercial whaling as merely a continuation of the Japanese Government’s blatant disregard of international laws and treaties – a fight that we have been leading for over a decade,” said Akex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global in a statement. “If they want to continue whaling, Sea Shepherd will continue to stand with the global community that wants to see an end to whaling.”
Despite the fact that a moratorium on commercial whaling was enacted in 1986, when whales were brought to the brink of extinction, Japan has never stopped whaling, claiming that they are doing so for research purposes. In 2014 the Governments of Australia and New Zealand took the Government of Japan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Netherlands. There it was ruled that Japan’s Southern Ocean whale hunt was both non-scientific and illegal.
“This week, while one part of the Japanese government is proudly facilitating international cooperation by hosting the G20 meeting, another is quietly extricating itself from the obligation for global collaboration on the protection and management of the world’s whales,” said Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International, in the group statement.
“Japan leaving the IWC and defying international law to pursue its commercial whaling ambitions is renegade, retrograde and myopic,” continued the statement.
Other countries, such as Norway, Iceland, and Denmark have also left the IWC in the past 20 years and continued their commercial hunts within their territorial waters.
Despite this, groups like Sea Shepherd vow to fight back against whaling still. “Our opposition to whaling is global and we will continue to pressure Japan and the other outlaw whaling nations until we achieve our ultimate goal – the complete and total global eradication of the merciless madness of whaling by anyone, everywhere for any reason,” says Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson.
“For now we ask the people of Japan to join us in this global fight, calling on your Government to lay down their harpoons once and for all, for the critical role whales play in maintaining a thriving and healthy ocean for us all.”