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Icelandic whale meat offloading at Japanese port
Icelandic whale meat offloading at Japanese port

The largest shipment of fin whale meat from Iceland to Japan for 30 years has arrived in port in what could be a last desperate attempt to breathe new life into a dying and cruel industry

On February 8th, the cargo ship Silver Copenhagen arrived at the port in Shimonoseki, Japan, loaded with 2,576 tonnes of fin whale meat from Iceland.

Working with Life Investigation Agency (LIA), a Japan-based organisation, we were able to track the arrival of the Silver Copenhagen and document the unloading of the cargo with photographs and video footage. The footage shows pallets containing packaged meat from fin whales (listed as vulnerable by the IUCN).

Fin whales are hunted in Iceland almost exclusively for meat export to Japan. However, the sale of the imported whale meat is not guaranteed in Japan. For years, interest in the meat has been declining there, and a survey by the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries shows that consumption in 2021 was so low that it does not even appear in the statistics. In the past, unsold fin whale meat has even been made into dog food.

'The Japanese whaling industry is trying to increase demand by introducing whale meat into school lunches or making whale meat more accessible through food vending machines,’ says Ren Yabuki, LIA's executive director. ‘Now attempts are being made to increase sales by the whaling industry offering imported whale meat at a low price. The world needs to work together to protect whales, which play an important role in preserving the earth's ecosystem and environment.’

‘Fin whales are listed by the IUCN as vulnerable yet Iceland and Japan are undermining international conservation efforts with this whale meat trade. In the face of species extinction and the climate crisis, this export is a scandal,’ says Katrin Matthes, who coordinates the work on Japanese whaling at WDC. It was only in December 2022 that the member countries of the UN Conference on Biological Diversity adopted a new global agreement to stop species extinction and reverse the trend.

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