Whaling Puts Japan on the Defensive Yet Again
By Tierramérica Editors
The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission once more is provoking debate about the whale meat trade, while hunting of these cetaceans has been sharply restricted by a moratorium since 1986.
MEXICO CITY, (Tierramérica).- This time it was a diplomatic exhortation. Ambassadors from 18 countries issued a communiqué critical of Japan's scientific whaling program due to its unilateral nature and its constant increase in hunting whales, in the run-up to the 54th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission, which begins May 20 in the Japanese city of Shimonoseki.
Every year at the IWC sessions, Japan and Norway press for an end to the moratorium on whale hunting that was agreed in 1986. And at the same time, the international pressure mounts, year after year, to halt the expansion of Japan's whale catch, which is protected by a hunting permit for "scientific ends", which the IWC granted in 1987.
Environmental groups have denounced the Japanese scientific program, today in a phase known as JARPN II, as a mere "façade" to cover the trade in whale meat.
In recent months, Japan once again surprised its critics by announcing plans to import whale meat from Norway and to step up its scientific whaling activities.
"We call on the Japanese government to comply with the decisions of the IWC and to abandon its JARPN II program, the objectives of which are not supported by the scientific committee," said the ambassadors' May 8 communiqué.
Japan argues that certain species, like the minke whale, are not in danger of extinction, but instead have experienced important population growth, and that the consumption of whale meat is part of the country's centuries-old culture.
Experts calculate that whale meat sales on the Japanese market move some 80 million dollars a year.
"It is time that Japan entered the new century, joins the rest of the international community and quits thinking up new ways to resuscitate the whale trade," said Fred O'Regan, president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), an organization that leads campaigns to protect whales worldwide.