Whaling in Japan

Whaling on trial

Whaling on trial

Once, a few months back, I was invited to a teacher’s house, and was served a very special kind of fish. Upon eating it, the teacher eagerly told me  that I had just eaten whale, possibly hoping to get a reaction from me.

He was disappointed. I personally have no problem with the idea of Japanese people eating whale or dolphin meat. This may make me unpopular, but I don’t believe that any group of people should be able to tell another nation or group of people what they can and cannot do in their own territory.

Whale sushi and sashimi doesn't taste that bad...

Whale sushi and sashimi doesn’t taste that bad…

I would call groups of people who behave in such a manner terrorists (or at least extremists), because they use force and intimidation to persuade others to adopt their beliefs. No matter how noble the intents of Sea Shepherd and other groups like them may be, they don’t have the right to impose their values on other people.

Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Watson, spent fifteen months evading authorities at sea, after he fled courts in Germany and had an Interpol Red Notice placed on him. Thankfully, many of Sea Shepherd’s supporters and members do not fully support the drastic measures taken by this small minority.

In December, a Japanese whaling fleet left Shimonoseki for the Antarctic Ocean 4. The hunt is went on until March, and the fleet hoped to catch roughly one thousand minke whales.

The stated purpose of this hunt was scientific research, however, the majority of the meat usually ends up being processed and sold to markets and stores.

Whale meat in stores

Whale meat in stores

The Japanese government is quick to defend the tradition, saying that whaling is a part of Japan’s culinary heritage, and that the hunt is done with research and sustainability in mind.

Recently however, the hunts have been encountering problems, reporting a catch of only 103 whales last year. This last hunt was a bigger success, with about 250 whales caught, but that’s still only around a quarter of their goal.

Whales for processing

Arguments surrounding the issue revolve mainly around the twin points of sustainability and sovereignty. The pro-whaling side insists that they are practising sustainable whaling, and that any attempt to interfere with them is a violation of their national sovereignty. The anti-whaling side maintains that there is no such thing as sustainable whaling, and that whales may unknowingly
stray from protected areas into whaling areas.

Regardless of the arguments, the whaling industry—in Japan at least—is facing a serious decline in popularity. In fact, the industry relies on subsidies from the Japanese government to remain afloat. In 2012, those subsidies reached 2.28 billion yen

In modern Japan, with fiscal belts being tightened and Tohoku Earthquake recovery efforts taking top priority, the whaling industry may find itself dead in the water without government funds.

On March 31st, the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague declared the Japanese Whale Research Program(JARPA II) illegal. The decision was made to “revoke any extant authorization, permit or license…and refrain from granting further permits” to carry out annual whale hunts in the Antarctic. Despite global criticism, Japan’s fleet carried out annual whale hunts taking advantage of a loophole within international that permits the killing of whales for scientific research. The sitting judge, Peter Tomka, said that the Japanese program resulted in the killing of thousands of minke whales and a number of fin whales, but that its “scientific output to date appears limited”

The issue initially earned global criticism when Animal Planet introduced “Whale Wars,” which followed Sea Shepherd USA, a branch of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and its attempts to deter the Japanese fleets, through violence if necessary, from hunting whales. The Institute of Cetacean Research initially stated its disappointment, but that it would respect the ruling.

However, on April 11th, the institute stated that they intend to hunt whales in the Antarctic for the 2015-2016 season under a newly designed research program.

Government ministers eating whale

Government ministers eating whale

In the end, though, it appears as though whaling industries will collapse, not because of international sanctions, or action by a small group of activists, but because of a lack of demand. The times of London recently reported that there were over 2,700 tons of uneaten whale meat left in storage last year. Such is the way of the world; old ways often sink into the background and disappear. So if you don’t support whaling, simply don’t support it. Without money, it will fade—not with a bang, but with a whimper.


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