Pacific News Minute: Japan Criticized as “Pirate Nation” After Decision to Resume Commercial Whaling

Dec 27, 2018

Credit Australian Customs and Border Protection Service / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Japan’s decision to leave the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling drew swift criticism from conservation groups, and some said Japan is now a “pirate nation.”

There is, in fact, good news and bad news for whale advocates – by leaving the IWC, Japan loses the right to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean under the guise of research. In recent years, Japanese whalers took as many as 330 animals in Southern waters every year; that has to stop at the end of June.

“It may bring a reprieve for the whale populations in international waters,” Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency told The Washington Post, “but at a high price.” 

Astrid Fuchs of Whale and Dolphin Conservation told The Guardian Australia that once Japan shifts its whale hunt to its own waters in July, “We won’t know how many whales they are catching, we won’t know how they will report it,” and she added, “It might spell doom for some populations.”

And there are questions about the effect on the International Whaling Commission itself. The IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling is credited with saving several endangered species, but Japan is hardly the only nation frustrated that there seems to be no possibility of modifying the ban.

Credit Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

Kitty Block, President of Humane Society International, told the Washington Post that she worries that Japan might recruit other pro-whaling nations to follow its lead. “Japan now becomes a pirate whaling nation,” she said.

And there’s a broader precedent – Japan will abandon a multi-lateral organization to go its own way; a policy that might be described as, “Japan First.”