Clashes expected over Japan’s bid to resume commercial whaling
Japanese government expected to propose reforms to the International Whaling Commission allowing them to circumvent the current ban
Attempts by Japan to resume commercial whaling are likely to raise controversy at the International Whaling Commission meeting, as opponents decry the countrys suggested reforms as a covert way to revive the banned practice.
The Japanese government is tabling proposals that would allow members of the IWC to circumvent some of its key decisions, such as ending the killing of whales for consumption of their meat.
Japan, which holds the chairmanship of this years IWC meeting in Brazil which starts on Tuesday, has continued to kill some whales at sea for many years, but has been able to do so to a limited extent under the IWC provisions for scientific research, which many experts regard as a pretext.
Japanese officials have said reform of the international body, set up in 1946 as the dangers to whale stocks became clear, is necessary because of its slow decision-making processes, the result of frequent disagreements between pro and anti whaling states.
The global consensus on conserving whale stocks has come under attack from Japan before. The moratorium on whaling, signed in 1982 and confirmed four years later after intense pressure from conservationists, still stands, but loopholes allow meat from whales killed for scientific purposes to be sold on the open market.
Norway and Iceland continue to support small minke whaling fleets, despite the moratorium, as they have registered objections or reservations. Russia has also registered an objection to the moratorium, but does not exercise it. Japan takes minke whales under the scientific research provision, but the meat has only a small market.
A few indigenous populations, such as Inuit people, who traditionally eat whale meat, are permitted a small amount of subsistence whale-hunting under the ban.
Japan is likely to face stiff opposition from countries such as Australia and New Zealand at the two-week meeting in Brazil that starts next week.
Earlier this year, the Icelandic company Hvalur announced it would resume hunting fin whales, which are classed as endangered. The last time fin whaling took place in Iceland was 2015, when 155 were hunted, mostly for the Japanese market. Minke whales are also hunted in Iceland, though usually far fewer than the government-allocated quota.
Patrick Ramage, marine conservation programme director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said whaling was outdated and uneconomic. He advocated responsible whale watching, rather than whale killing and said the global movement for whale conservation had far more support than whaling.