The Japanese government has decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC – the international body that regulates whale hunting) so that it can begin hunting whales for commercial profit.
In doing so, Japan has effectively turned its back on international co-operation around the regulation of whale hunting.
In 1982, the IWC introduced a ban on all commercial whaling after it became apparent that the numbers of whales being killed were unsustainable and jeopardized whale populations. But Japan went on to utilise a loophole in the regulations and continued to hunt whales for what it called research purposes, despite the fact that most of the meat from these hunts ends up on commercial sale and that little scientific value comes from them.
Japan announced its intentions to consider leaving the IWC earlier in the year, with Japanese government representatives stating that some whale populations have become large enough to justify commercial slaughter.
The government is believed to be making preparations for commercial whaling to be restarted in Japan’s nearby waters and exclusive economic zones.
‘With this move the Japanese government is officially turning its back on international cooperation around conservation measures, and one of the greatest conservation agreements ever made – the ban on commercial whaling,’ comments Astrid Fuchs, programme lead at WDC. ‘It is possible other countries will follow Japan’s example and resume commercial whaling in their coastal waters. This is devastating news for the whales and we can only hope that conservation-minded countries like the UK will take appropriate measures to respond to Japan’s decision, including the threat of sanctions.’
Humans have inflicted enormous damage to the planet including culling millions of whales and wiping out up to 90% of some populations. Yet few people, let alone governments, are aware that recovering whale populations can help fight the damage we cause.