Japan's 'scientific whaling' fail


Japan's latest plans for 'scientific whaling' in the Southern Ocean have fallen at the first hurdle, writes Tony Press. The IWC's expert panel says Japan's proposal contains 'insufficient information' on which to judge its validity, in particular the need for the 'lethal sampling' of over 3,996 Minke whales that is central to the research plan.

Japan's latest proposal to resume whaling in the Antarctic has been rejected by an expert panel set up by the International Whaling Commission, which regulates whaling and whale conservation.

The panel found that "the present proposal contains insufficient information for the Panel to complete a full review."

Japan's new program, NEWREP-A (New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean), proposed killing up to 333 minke whales each year until 2027.

Unlike Japan's previous whaling program, JARPA II, only Antarctic minke whales are targeted, and there is some increased effort in 'non-lethal' research methods. But the core of the proposed program centres on the lethal sampling of minke whales.

Among Japan's justifications for the level of lethal sampling in its proposed program is the statement that: "As there is no other means than lethal methods, at this stage, the use of lethal method is indispensable to obtain age data which is necessary for estimating the age-at-sexual maturity"

This, Japan states, is important for estimating how many whales can be taken each year if commercial harvesting resumes.

Whales in court

There are 88 countries in the International Whaling Commission under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which placed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982.

However, member countries are allowed to issue permits to themselves to kill whales for scientific research; and Norway and Iceland continue to take whales commercially, having lodged formal objections to the commercial whaling moratorium.

Japan's latest proposal to kill whales was reviewed by an expert panel of scientists established under the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission. Its role was to evaluate the proposed new research program "in the light of [its] stated objectives."

The expert panel's findings will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the scientific committee. Ultimately, though, it will be up to Japan whether it accepts the recommendations or not.

The current finding is particularly significant, because it mirrors the judgment of the International Court of Justice when it ruled against Japan's previous whaling program, JARPA II, in April 2014. Then the court ruled that "the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not 'for purposes of scientific research'."

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, The Ecologist.

Minke whale image via Shutterstock.