According to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, 103 male and 230 female minke whales were killed during Japan’s last Antarctic hunt. Though the country said that the whales were killed for scientific reasons, conservationists claim that the ‘scientific’ whaling program violates an International Court of Justice’s 2014 decision.
Two years ago, the International Court of Justice has barred Japan from conducting a whaling program in the Antarctic since evidence showed that it was not carried out for research alone. During both programs, state agencies sold whale carcasses for profit.
So, anti-whaling groups believe that the state now tries to covertly resume its commercial whaling, which was explicitly banned by international forums in 1986. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old rule exempted scientific whaling from the ban.
Citing that exemption, Japan killed 3,600 minke whales over the last decade alone. Government agencies said that the whaling program was purely scientific, but reportedly the animals had to be killed to estimate their maturing age.
In the last hunt, 90 percent of mature female whales were pregnant, which sparked outrage of conservationist groups worldwide. The Institute of Cetacean Research, which is the state agency running the program, said that such large numbers of pregnant whales were a clear indication that reproduction rates of Antarctic minke whales were ‘healthy.’
According to Australian sources, ICR’s expedition ship called Nisshin Maru spent 115 days in the Antarctic of which 65 were used to hunt and kill whales for scientific research, but also to carry out non-lethal experiments and underwater surveys.
Japan has ever since claimed that the whaling program was conducted strictly for research. Nevertheless, the agency monetized the meat on the Japanese market.
The latest program is controversial but it cannot be halted, Japan said, because it has yet to be reviewed by the International Court of Justice. Conservationists, on the other hand, say that the program clearly violates international law since in 2014 the ICJ prohibited all of Japan’s whaling expeditions.
Back then, justices argued that the country’s whaling programs resulted in only two peer-reviewed studies that analyzed only nine whales. So, the scientific output did not give a justification for the killing of 3,600 animals since 2005.
In response, Japan authorities said that JARPA II was a whaling program designed to assess minke whales’ pregnancy rates, age, and sexual maturity. Yet, the court argued that the sole expert called to testify noted that JARPA II was completely isolated from other national and international efforts to study the Antarctic wildlife.
Image Source: Vimeo