Japan resumes killing whales for profit after 33 years

By on July 1, 2019 with 12 Comments

Japan, a long-time outlier on the global consensus against commercial whaling, overtly resumed killing whales for profit today in defiance of a 33-year international moratorium that still remains in effect. Japan’s actions make it a pirate whaling nation, acting completely outside the rule of international law and at odds with the majority of nations who are agreed that commercial whaling needs to end.

Yesterday, the government of Japan formally left the International Whaling Commission, the international body that oversees whale conservation and whaling management. Today, the country launched its whaling fleet, announcing that it will take Bryde’s, sei and minke whales — the same three species it has been hunting under the guise of research for years — and will set its own quotas with no independent oversight of its actions.

Japan’s actions run contrary to the global movement to end commercial whaling — a movement that has made tremendous strides in recent years. Just last week, Iceland, which has frequently faced international criticism for continuing to kill whales, declared there will be no whaling in Icelandic waters this season. The IWC itself, once described as a “club for whalers,” has evolved over the years into a strong international body focused on addressing pressing threats to whales whose well-being is threatened by a number of factors, including ship strikes, climate change, bycatch, entanglement, marine debris and toxic pollution. Nation after nation has abandoned whaling, isolating Iceland, Japan and Norway as the only holdouts.

Japan whaled in the North Pacific and in Antarctica under the pretense of scientific research for decades, while simultaneously carrying out a long and well-funded campaign to undermine the global moratorium. At last year’s IWC meeting in Brazil, Japan threatened to leave the IWC. By following up on that threat now, Japan is not just thumbing its nose at other nations trying to work cooperatively to save the world’s great whales for future generations; it is also establishing a terrible precedent for other countries that might seek to follow its example.

Whaling is neither sustainable nor humane. As long-lived, slow breeding marine mammals, whales are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation, and there is no guaranteed humane way to kill a whale at sea.

Japan’s eagerness to resume commercial whaling is also perplexing, because the demand for whale meat in Japan has dropped significantly; its “research” whaling program has also lost money for years.

Whatever Japan’s reasons for reopening commercial whaling may be, one fact is for certain – it stands almost alone on this issue. In the 25 years I have been involved in efforts to ending commercial whaling, my colleagues at HSI and I have spent many hours listening to Japan defend its so-called research whaling and watching its representatives argue against the maintenance of the moratorium, only to see it repeatedly rebuffed by a majority of nations.

Last week, HSI with many other organizations and individuals wrote an open letter to the countries meeting in Japan for the G20 summit, calling upon Japan to desist from commercial whaling. Now, as Japan sets out to sea once again on a mission to destroy some of the most extraordinary animals on earth, we are marshaling our resources to counter its move and set the world on a true course of coming together to save our planet’s whales.

Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Jenn says:

    Japan , you suck! I hope all these whalers die a slow excruciating death !!
    Shame on them !!

    • Joe says:

      That’s not helpful Jenn but is understandable. Vote with your wallet; inflammatory and threatening comments have no real purpose. If you want to vent – do so in private. If you want to make a public comment suggest ways to improve the situation, to influence Japan’s decision, or determine how to economically influence Japan‘s government. We are all out raged by this startling direction, let’s try to keep our wits about us and find sustainable solutions to the issues.

  2. Sylvia Lewis Gunning says:

    Japan’s resumption of whaling is not only heartbreaking..it is appalling! Japan is a country and a people I’ve long admired but this callous and needless killing of whales is beyond disgusting. I will pay closer attention to products I purchase in the future so that not one dime will be spent on any Japanese product. SHAME!

  3. John A Bachman says:

    Please, won’t HSUS and HSI start a movement for tourists to boycott Japan and for consumers to boycott Japanese products until Japan stops the whaling and the Dolphin capture and slaughter? This could also call for a boycott of the summer Olympics by athletes and attendees. Thy to get the support of all Animal Rights, environmental and ocean protection organizations. Tell the world that we are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore.

    • Scott Lynn Riley says:

      Yes, let’s absolutely begin a campaign through HSUS and HSI in which we bring about online, via a strong media pledge, signatures by the tens of thousands from people globally who confirm they will boycott both the visitation of the coming Olympics and the travel to ‘any’ tourism destination in Japan until the government of Japan and private enterprises completely and irrevocably cease all whaling actions, including the current one. Our pledges will strike a great blow to Japan economically and be strongly felt by airlines serving Japan. We must also ban our personal household use of all Japanese products possible, until whaling ceases.


  4. Daniel O'Brien says:

    This is not acceptable! Whales are not meant to be hunted and killed by us humans. They need to be treated with respect and left to hunt in peace and become prey for others, so leave them alone and we have to try to cancel this hunting from the Japanese and punish them for it and teach them to respect, not destroy nature.

  5. Gary Gertzweig says:

    Boycott the Japan 2020 Olympics until they stop.

  6. Joanne Scott says:

    Is there a way to boycott Japanese products or to inflict financial pain in another way to protest this outrageous act of inhumanity, cruelty and arrogance?

  7. Monica Morena says:

    How can this vil be tolérate ?!!!!!

  8. Sandra says:

    This is another embarassment for Japan when it comes to respect and humane treatment of animal lives and preservation.

  9. Peter Hood says:

    According to the office of the US Trade Representativen, the he top import categories from Japan in 2018 were: vehicles ($51 billion), machinery ($32 billion), electrical machinery ($18 billion), optical and medical instruments ($7.1 billion), and aircraft ($4.2 billion).

    There is only one tack that Japan’s government will respect: money. American consumers can easily and quickly impact the first category. As consumers, we can also be clear to those we do business with on an everyday basis, that we would not tolerate themselves utilizing Japan-made elements in our business transactions.

    Americans can also contact the Japan Tourism Agency (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism), that they would not consider travel to Japan.

  10. Grace Neff says:

    I’m with John H. Bachman—-we have to put the pressure on where it will hurt the most.

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