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Japanese Whaling

Japan has a limited tradition of small scale whaling that dates back centuries. However, its large- scale, industrial whaling is a relatively new phenomenon, starting after World War II when animal protein was in short supply.

Japan continues to kill whales and sell the meat from its hunts, despite the ban (moratorium) on commercial whaling. To do this it exploits a loophole in the founding treaty of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which allows whaling for scientific research. It also hunts in an IWC-designated sanctuary in Antarctica, under an objection it lodged to that decision in 1994.

Currently, Japan allocates its whalers annual research quotas for 10 sperm, 100 sei, 50 Bryde’s and 120 minke whales in the North Pacific (60 of which are killed by Small Type Coastal Whalers), and up to 935 minkes and 10 fin whales in Antarctica, making a total of 1225 whales a year. Hunting of 50 humpbacks a year was planned to begin late in 2007, however worldwide opposition forced Japan to postpone this hunt. Japan continues to threaten to include humpbacks as a part of its quota, despite not having killed any, which many conservation groups see as a negotiating tool in its discussions at the IWC.

Provisional figures from Japan’s 2009 hunt in the North Pacific show that Japanese whalers killed roughly 160 minke whales, 100 sei whales, 50 Bryde’s whales and 1 sperm whale. In addition, Japan killed 506 minke whales and one fin whale in its 2009/2010 Antarctic hunt.

‘Scientific’ whaling The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling on all great whale species in 1982, with the ban coming into effect in 1986. Japan, along with Norway and the USSR, immediately lodged a legal objection to the moratorium, which exempted them from the ban’s effect. Japan took over 5,500 whales ‘under objection’ in the first three years of the ban, but was persuaded by political pressure to remove the objection in full by 1988. It is therefore now bound by the ban on commercial whaling.

However, Article VIII of the IWC’s founding treaty, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), permits contracting governments to issue ‘special permits’ to

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