After a break of more than a year, Japanese whaling ships are heading to the Antarctic. The move faces international opposition, but Japan says it’s made changes to the program. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.
For years, Japan has argued that its whaling operations are a matter of scientific research…although it admits that hundreds of whales are killed as part of the process. Australia and New Zealand challenged the legality of the hunts and last year; the International Court of Justice ruled they were not “for the purposes of scientific research.”
Last year, Japan did not send any whaling ships to Antarctica - but this year they are en-route under what the government says is a new program. The Tokyo government says it has “sincerely taken into account” the court ruling and now plans to kill a third of the whales that it used to - a total of 333 minke whales.
Earlier this year, a panel of the International Whaling Commission said there was not enough detail in Japan’s proposal. Both Australia and New Zealand oppose it. Japan’s government maintains it does not “require any substantial changes” to its plans, which will last until March. Japan’s Fisheries Agency says it is building scientific data that it hopes will lead to the resumption of commercial whaling.
Norway and Iceland and also hunt whales. Earlier this year, Norway killed 660 minke whales - down from 736 whales a year ago. While Japan uses a scientific research exemption to hunt whales, Norway and Iceland do not recognize the international ban.