Japan ignores international bans and starts whaling again

Il Giappone ha annunciato la ripresa della caccia ai cetacei nell’Antartico per “scopi scientifici”. Nei prossimi dodici anni saranno uccise circa 4mila balenottere.

Once again, Japan challenges the world. After the 1-year hiatus, the first Japanese fleet has departed on 1 December, headed to the Antarctic, in search of whales. Whaling will last until March and four whalers will be employed.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis)
A fin whale swimming in the Antarctic © Paul A. Souders/Corbis

In response to all protests sparked, Tokyo has declared it has reduced by two third the number of whales to be killed: “only” 333 cetaceans will be victim of the Japanese harpoons. Japan, alongside Iceland, Norway, and Faroe Islands, is the only country to not stop whaling, and has deliberately ignored the ban on hunting of the International Court of Justiceale.

The ban comes after that Australia denounced Japan of hunting in its exclusive economic zone extending for 200 nautical miles from its Antarctic territory. Hunting for commercial purposes, according to a moratorium of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), is illegal since 1986. However, Japan appealed to the only loophole possible to continue whaling: the hunt for scientific purposes.

killed whale
Japan’s research programme will allow the country to kill 4,000 whales over 12 years

But in 2014 the International Court of Justice said Japan’s Antarctic hunt was not scientific and should cease. Therefore, the decision of starting whaling again, besides being immoral, is unlawful. “We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called scientific research,” said Greg Hunt, Australia’s minister for the environment. “Japan cannot decide unilaterally”.

In support of its initiative, Japan has provided a 12-year research programme to the IWC, by pledging to publish all results. In 12 years, 4,000 whales will be killed. However, the IWC has reaffirmed the scientific inconsistency of Japan’s programme, and did not authorised whaling.


Japan’s government, which did not previously recognise Australia’s sovereignty on Antarctic waters, has in response announced to the United Nations that it will not accept the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction or any interference on its use of marine resources.


Protests against whaling
Protests against Japan’s whaling, Melbourne, Australia, 2007

Nick McKim, senator of the Australian Greens, has asked the government to raise the issue of whaling at the climate conference in Paris, COP21. “It is beyond time just for words,” McKim said. “It is time for action and that’s why we need a boat down there gathering evidence against Japan for future court cases.”

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