New reports indicate that Japan will push a government-endorsed proposal to resume commercial whaling at the upcoming meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Despite Japan’s repeated violations of the global moratorium, through the “research whaling” program, some in Japan are reportedly pressuring the government to leave the IWC altogether, something the Japanese delegation to the IWC has repeatedly threatened in meetings.
Kyodo News reports that “(o)f the IWC's 88 members, 40 support whaling while the remaining 48 are against the practice, according to Japan's Fisheries Agency.”
The pro-whaling nations include Iceland and Norway, which filed formal objections to the moratorium and therefore, under the IWC rules, are not bound by those rules and can conduct commercial whaling. Much of the catch is sold to Japan, a violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Japan has also lined up a number of small countries in the Caribbean and Africa that agree to support Japan’s position at the IWC in return for foreign aid and often outright bribery of delegates.
However, IWC procedures require a ¾ vote of the IWC member nations in order to make any changes to the moratorium as well as other major decisions. Japan is apparently proposing lowering this voting requirement to a simply majority, but that would require opening up the entire IWC Convention to revision, which would require unanimous consent by all member nations.
The government of Australia has already announced their opposition to Japan’s proposed squelching of the whaling moratorium, and other pro-whale conservation countries in the European Union and South America are also expected to object.
As this IWC meeting, which now meets every-other year, will be the first meeting at which President Donald Trump fields a team, as usual with this Administration, it is entirely unclear what the Trump IWC delegation will do or not do at the meeting.
It was recently revealed that Japan’s most recent “research whaling” season in Antarctica, from December 8th, 2017 to Feb. 28th, 2018, filled the Japanese quota of 333 minke whales with 122 pregnant whales. Japan’s research whaling has been deemed a violation of the IWC Convention by the International Law Court in the Hague, which Japan ignores.
Furthermore, whale meat prices in Japan are dropping, down 40% from ten years ago, according to a recent report in Nikkei Newspaper, with whale meat increasingly rejected by Japanese consumers. The sale of whale meat from the “research” whaling scheme is meant to help cover costs, but the Japan taxpayers wind up paying a substantial amount of the annual whaling cruise expenses. Much of the whale meat will be frozen in storage or consigned to pet food, school lunch programs, and jerky, because of the lack of a market.
Japan has also vigorously opposed a proposal by Latin American nations and South Africa to establish a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean, barring any whaling. Japan currently also ignores the whale sanctuary established by a ¾ vote of the IWC in Antarctica.
The International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute is opposed to ending the commercial moratorium and is leading the effort to pressure the Japan government into ending the killing of whales and dolphins before the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics shine a bright media spot-light on Japan’s illegal whaling and dolphin killing activities.