Extremely rough seas ahead for resumption of commercial whaling in Japan
TOKYO — Japan’s whaling is drawing even more severe criticism from the international community.
Japan’s proposal, which included a call for partially resuming commercial whale hunting, has been voted down at a general meeting of the International Whaling Commission.
The proposal, designed to limit hunting to minke and other numerically abundant whales, was approved by 27 nations but opposed by 41.
Japan asserted that the purpose of its proposal was to preserve whales and utilize them in a sustainable manner. In reaction to this, such anti-whaling nations as the United States and Australia opposed the proposal one after another, pushing it aside by a wide margin.
A persistent opinion within the IWC — mainly among anti-whaling nations — continues to regard whales as “a special creature.” There is an obstinate barrier to resuming commercial whaling.
The IWC meeting adopted a declaration aimed at preserving whales, which called for continuing a halt in commercial whale hunting. Although the declaration is legally nonbinding, it showed the severity of the environment surrounding whaling again.
As a nation seeking to resume commercial whaling, Japan has no choice but to accept the harsh reality. To promote better understanding about whale hunting, Japan will be pressed to greatly retool its strategy for that purpose.
“We have no choice but to closely examine all options regarding relations with the IWC,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ken Saito said at a press conference.
Certain concessions essential
He seems to have set his sights on withdrawing Japan from the IWC. However, there is a high possibility that Japan’s departure from the organization will make it impossible to conduct whaling for research purposes based on the IWC framework. In that case, Japan might become more deeply isolated internationally.
Japan has continued research whaling to study such matters as the volume of whales as resources, with a view to resuming commercial whaling, which was suspended in 1988. This has led to the revelation that whales are preying on large quantities of sardines, sauries and other fish.
It is necessary to tenaciously continue asserting that whaling is important for managing and preserving marine resources, based on objective scientific data.
It is indispensable for Japan to make certain concessions if it seeks to resume commercial whale hunting. Japan has no other choice but to accept cuts in research whaling, and in return, call for partially resuming commercial whaling.
Research whaling has incurred a large amount of state expenditures every year. Last year, legislation initiated by Diet members was established to state the necessity of financially supporting scientific whaling.
Meat from fished whales is sold as “by-products” of research whaling, but domestic whale-meat demand is slumping. The government must carefully explain the significance of research whaling to the public.
In Chiba and Wakayama prefectures, coastal whaling is conducted, targeting small whales. These whales are not included in the list of the IWC’s conservation management plan. Coastal whaling there is playing a role in regional revitalization and food-culture inheritance. It should be properly passed down the generations.
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