Japan’s withdrawal from killing whales in international waters is a historic moment for marine conservation.
At the very end of 2018 Japan announced it would leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume commercial whaling. By withdrawing from the IWC Japan can no longer take advantage of the IWCs exemption for scientific whaling in international waters and will therefore have to stop whaling in on the high seas in areas such as the Southern Ocean. It does however mean Japan will still be able to hunt whales within its own jurisdictional waters without oversight by the IWC.
The WCA and its partners stand against any kind of whaling, whether for scientific purposes or otherwise and is extremely disappointed that Japan have decided to resume international hunting of large whales for commercial gain.
The withdrawal means Japan joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying the IWCs ban on commercial whale hunting.
The announcement made by Japans Government, has generated some misinformation as well as a fear that the decision will represent a global comeback of large-scale commercial whaling. However, Eduardo Camargo, President of WCA Partner the Brazilian Humpback Whale Institute (Instituto Baleia Jubarte), says there is no chance of this happening, ‘simply because there is no longer a global market for whale products such as meat and blubber, even in Japan and in the last few whaling countries, Iceland, Norway and Denmark that market is shrinking and will disappear in the coming years’.
Camargo says ‘the Japanese decision was greatly influenced by the results of the recent IWC meeting held in Florianopolis/Brazil last September, in which Brazil managed to approve the Florianopolis Declaration which considers whaling an unnecessary practice in the 21st Century and calls for a re-direction of IWC efforts to other management issues, such as whale-watching and research into the role whales play in keeping oceans healthy’.
One positive that might come out of Japan’s withdrawal and abandonment of whaling in international waters is that it may open the way for the IWC to approve the Brazilian proposal to create a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. This proposal has been blocked by Japan and its allies in the Commission since 2001. Further to reaffirming the whaling ban, the Sanctuary will promote cooperation amongst the coastal nations of this ocean basin for scientific research and income generation from whale tourism.
The WCA has been a supporter of the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary since its inception and of course welcomes its creations, as a huge leap for whale conservation. It is also remains steadfast in its opposition to whaling in any form and is dedicated to continuing the fight to stop whaling forever.