Japan has vowed to resume their whaling program – despite continued controversy. Earlier this year, the International Whaling Commission voted to implement restrictions on Japan’s whaling program. However, Japanese officials are unwilling to comply. On Thursday, Japanese diplomats announced plans to resume their whaling program next year.
Although commercial whaling was banned in 1986, whaling for scientific purposes is exempt — under very strict guidelines. The guidelines allow the culling of large and medium-sized whales for use in scientific research. The whales must not be used for commercial gain.
In March, the International Court of Justice determined that Japan profited from whales used for “scientific purposes.” As reported by National Geographic, the scientists are accused of killing whales to obtain data — when nonlethal methods would have been sufficient.
The ICJ further determined that the excess meat and blubber was sold for considerable profit. According to reports, Japan’s whaling program killed approximately 50 fin whales, 850 minke whales, and 50 humpback whales.
Marine mammal biologist Leah Gerber said a majority of the deaths were unnecessary. According to Gerber, the scientists could have collected their data using a small dart. Although the darts collect samples of skin and blubber, they do not cause fatal injury to the whales.
Japan have also been criticized for their culling of smaller animals, including dolphins and porpoises. Although the smaller whales are exempt from the ban, many believe the killings are excessive. Japan’s culling of dolphins has also been criticized as specifically brutal.
As reported by The Guardian, the International Court of Justice eventually imposed a two-year moratorium on Japan’s whaling program. However, Japanese officials “took a different interpretation.”
During Thursday’s announcement, Japanese diplomats expressed an intention to follow the IWC’s guidelines. However, the committee is not convinced.
Aimee Leslie, with the World Wildlife Fund, asked the Japanese officials to reconsider their decision.
“We urge Japan to abide by the decision of the IWC and to refrain from launching more hunts outside of the process set up today… If Japan truly wants to advance whale conservation as it says it does, then it should not circumvent these new IWC rules.”
Despite the International Court of Justice’s opinion, Japanese scientists insist the program is necessary. They have denied accusations that the killings were brutal or unnecessary. Although Japan will resume their whaling program, they have agreed to submit a detailed plan to the IWC for review.
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