Japan has received criticism and rebuke from conservation groups after it said that it will continue whaling operations in the Antarctic Ocean.
While Japan said that the operation will be conducted to collect “scientific data,” those opposing the claim say that whales need not be slaughtered for research. Joji Morishita, IWC commissioner for Japan, said in new documents submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that the country’s new whaling program will aim to catch 333 minke whales per year beginning early 2016. As reported by Science Alert, this constitutes one-third of the number of animals that were annually caught in Japan’s previous whaling operation in the area.
Japan’s whaling research plan says, “In order to achieve conservation of [Antarctic] resources while pursuing their sustainable utilisation and to understand and predict the effects of factors such as climate change, it is scientifically imperative to obtain an accurate understanding of many aspects of the Antarctic marine ecosystem including its animals and their dynamics through collection, accumulation, and analysis of scientific data.”
Australia has said that it might keep an eye on the Japanese fleet by sending one of its boats. Australia had previously brought the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case against Japan. Attorney-General George Brandis said Australia was “very disappointed” over Japan’s decision to continue its operations, adding that matters have been taken up to “the highest levels” to persuade Japan to halt its whaling program.
In March 2014, a ruling issued by the ICJ had caused Japan to end its previous whaling operation in the Antarctic Ocean. Japan defended its stand, claiming that under the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling it was justified in carrying out its operations on research grounds. Presiding judge, Peter Tomka, had said, “In light of the fact the [research program] has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited.”
The lowering of the demand of whale meat and protests by anti-whaling group, Sea Shepherd, can be attributed to the decline of Japan’s annual catch, according to the New York Times.
While the IWC introduced a ban on whaling in 1986, Japan had continued its operations for research.