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Is Antarctic Whaling Over?

By April 13, 2015No Comments

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson


File Photo: The Nisshin Maru, the factory vessel of the Japanese whaling fleet Photo: Sea Shepherd / Simon Ager

When last we checked in on the criminal Antarctic whalers from Japan they were all giddy with excitement and pumped up with testosterone in anticipation of the possibility of returning to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with a brand new program for which they were cocksure they would get the go-ahead from the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

After a decade of interventions by Sea Shepherd and a condemnation of their entire bogus “scientific” whaling program by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the Antarctic whalers had been pretty much shut down. Sea Shepherd had prevented them from killing over 6,000 whales and the lawsuit brought against Japan by Australia ordered them to cease and desist.

At first they agreed to abide by the verdict saying that they respected international law and that they were not a rogue nation. It all looked very bleak for the whalers. But some sneaky little bureaucrat with the Institute of Cetacean Research thought he had come up with a smart idea. The ICR and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thought so also. They even held a government sponsored whale meat feast to celebrate the new approach.

And that approach was to resubmit the bogus science program with an infallible argument for an alternative bogus science program by spending a season dabbling in non-lethal research and removing the endangered whales from the recipe book. Lower the numbers, and focus on Minke whales while expanding the area of lethal operations.

In fact the ICR was so confident of this new and brilliant “solution” that they announced that they would be returning to kill whales with their new-and-improved-this-time-absolutely-bonafide “scientific” whaling program.

Last year Prime Minster Abe made the announcement that, “Japan, looking at international law and scientific grounds, will engage in research of whaling in order to collect the indispensible scientific information in order to manage the whale resources.”

The new plan would mean taking 4,000 Minke whales over a period of 12 years with an average of 333 killed each year. They would not target the endangered Humpbacks and Fins. If prevented from taking 333 whales, they would simply add what they did not get one year to the quota the next year. So if they took 200 whales instead of 333, they would attempt to kill 466 whales the next year. They also stated they would expand their area of “research,” meaning that they would try to stay as far away from Sea Shepherd ships as they possibly could.

In fact the entire program was designed to prevent interference from Sea Shepherd by making the distances greater and allowing for an added quota the following year to compensate for the loss they expected from interventions by anti-whaling activists.

When it came to the science of avoiding intervention it was a good plan but unfortunately for them the IWC is not much interested in the strategic science of avoiding confrontations with whale defenders.

Nonetheless they were excited! You see the ICR had so convinced themselves that they really do conduct research whaling and they were dead certain that the IWC would not find fault with the new and improved plan.


File Photo: A minke whale spyhops through the ice Photo: Sea Shepherd

They also thought that the world would agree with their assessment that the Minke whales were the “cockroaches of the sea.” And by dropping the more beloved Humpbacks and the much rarer Fins, they felt that the new plan was in the bag.

To sprinkle some seeds of “credibility” on their new science program they sent their harpoon boats down to the Southern Ocean this past season to do non-lethal posing, oops sorry, I meant to say “research.”

The new program was named NEWREP-A, a program to secure more precise data on Minke whales in preparation for the lifting of the global moratorium on commercial whaling.

In other words they need to keep their whalers trained and they need to try and reinvigorate a dying market for whale meat. In 1997, a Japanese representative to the IWC let slip that they felt if whaling were shut down for any period of time they would be hard pressed to find professional harpooners and it would be difficult to train new ones without the experience of the veterans.

The Japanese whalers did not return to the Southern Ocean this season and the 2014/2015 season was the first time since the end of World War II that the whales were safe from the harpoons.

Now what are their plans for the 2015/2016 whaling season?

It was, up until this week, to return in December 2015 to take their first 333 Minke whales under their new program, but shockingly they’ve run into a big unexpected obstacle.

The panel of scientific experts for the IWC is not being taken in by the re-worked justification for “science.”

Australia submitted to the panel that NEWREP-A is essentially the same approach rejected by the ICJ. “Japan has added several non-lethal elements to the program in an attempt to make it appear less focused in lethal methods,” said Bill de la Mare of the Australian Antarctic Division.

This week the scientific panel of experts for the IWC reported that Japan had failed to provide enough information to determine whether killing more Minke whales was necessary to meet research objectives. Therefore “the current proposal does not demonstrate the need for lethal sampling to achieve these objectives.”

The Japanese whalers did set out just this week to kill Minke whales in the North Pacific, their argument being that this hunt is not covered by the ICJ ruling, although there is a good argument that it is.

The Antarctic however is 100% covered by the verdict of the ICJ and that new plan has now been rejected by the IWC.

In an effort to save face, the Japanese said they were open to some revisions but did not specify what that actually meant.

The world is not buying Japan’s ridiculous claim to science. Consider that from 1950 until 1987, the total number of whales killed for scientific research was 950 by all nations. In other words 25 whales on average a year by the entire planet. Since 1987, this one nation, Japan, has slaughtered 10,000 whales, which has averaged 357 whales per year over the last 28 years.

The difference of course is that the 357 whales a year ended up on plates as sushi in Japan, instead of being examined in laboratories. And where there was a plethora of scientific papers published for the slain 950 whales prior to the great Japanese resurgence of whale research, not a single international, peer-reviewed scientific paper has been published about the slaughtered 10,000 whales since the program began in 1987.

The panel of IWC scientific experts are not the idiots that the ICR appear to think they are.

Japan can be expected to indulge in some intensive lobbying (in Japanese this is translated as bribing) at the next meeting of the IWC, but the writing is not only on the wall for commercial whaling, it has been chiseled into the stone.

Of course Japan may decide to go rogue and disregard world opinion and international law. They’ve done it before but when they did, it backfired on them with a very big bang.

Will Japan return to Antarctica to kill whales at the end of this year?

There is now a very good chance that they will not.

But somewhere in some ICR office in Japan, the bureaucrats are scheming for a new approach. I think we can predict that another brilliant plan will be unleashed to justify whaling in a world where whaling is no longer considered necessary, ethical or humane.

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