Whales Threatened: Japan announces it will resume commercial hunting
- The so-called scientific whaling in Japan has exceeded 16,000 dead whales since 1987
- Rejection of international agreements is a harsh blow and a serious precedent for the conservation of the oceans, according to specialists
Despite the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) efforts to regulate whaling, since 1946, the populations of these cetaceans have continued to decrease due to the non-compliance of the quotas established for the whaling countries. This has led to catastrophic declines in populations of various species of whales.
Moving forwards and falling backwards
"To reverse the damage, in 1982 the member states of the IWC adopted the moratorium on commercial whaling, formally established in 1986," says Aimee Leslie, director of the Marine Program at WWF Peru. "Around the world they celebrated the success of the "save the whales" campaign, but, despite this historic decision, Japan, Norway and Iceland decided to continue whaling", continues the expert.
Thus, Norway presented an objection to the moratorium, while Iceland left the IWC, only to return with questionable reservation to the moratorium in 2002. Japan also presented an objection to the moratorium, but then withdrew the objection and began to hunt whales with the argument of conducting science. This is because Article VIII of the convention allows hunting for scientific purposes (the agreement was written in the forties, when the current technology did not exist) and the member countries of the IWC have not garnered the necessary votes to eliminate said article, given that many African, Caribbean, and Asian countries support the Japanese cause. A notorious example is Mongolia, a country that supports whaling in the IWC, even without having a direct relationship with the activity.
According to Leslie, "since 1987, Japan's scientific hunting programs have killed more than 16,000 animals." This, despite the international protest on the basis that there is no need to kill whales for science. Even a ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2014 indicated that "the Japanese whaling program in Antarctica (JARPA II) is not in conformity with the three provisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whales ", but still, Japan continues hunting under a new program called NEWREP-A, with the sole purpose of abolishing the ban.
Since the moratorium was implemented, the Government of Japan has also requested quotas from the IWC to do a "small-scale" hunt on its coasts. This proposal was called "Small Type Coastal Whaling (STCW)" and was presented for 30 years before the CBI to obtain approval for the hunting of minke whales and other small whales on Japanese coasts. But, again and again, the CBI rejected these proposals, due to its commercial nature. In addition, there are serious concerns regarding the sustainability of such hunting, because there is a population of endangered minke whales known as J-stock, which would be affected by these activities and is already at risk due to high levels of bycatch. in Japan, South Korea and North Korea.
Japan's decision to withdraw from the IWC and resume commercial whaling in its coastal waters after 2019 is a slap in the face to the 89 member states of the IWC and must be met with international outrage. First, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent not only for other whaling nations to follow in their footsteps, but also for all other international agreements.
"In WWF, the global conservation organization, we are appalled by Japan's decision. What world would we leave to our children if, at any moment when a government does not agree with an internationally and democratically agreed-upon decision to protect the shared resources of the world, it decides to reject it and engage in unsustainable activities anyway? ", Argues Leslie.
By disregarding the only international agreement that oversees whaling activities, Japan is turning its back on the IWC's democratic commitments whose goal is to conserve and manage whale populations throughout the world.
Therefore, "we have called for Japan to respect international agreements and global conservation efforts and to remain a member of the IWC," says the WWF specialist. This decision to bring commercial and unsustainable interests ahead of global conservation efforts comes at a time when all species of whales in the world are under an unprecedented threat, due to bycatch (entanglement in fishing gear), collisions with maritime transport, intraoceanic noise, chemical and plastic pollution, as well as due to climate change.
Whales in Peru
With more than 30 registered species, the Peruvian sea is considered one of the places with the highest diversity and density of cetaceans in the world, and although whale hunting is not a threat here, Peru is one of the countries with the highest rate of bycatch of marine mammals. In 2018 there were several reports of whales entangled in fishing nets, which often ends with mutilated individuals, or worse still dead. "Therefore, it is necessary that we take all possible efforts to protect whales around the world, whether in Japan or Peru," concluded Leslie.