At the 57th session of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to be held in Ulsan, South Korea from June 20th-24th, Japan will introduce JARPA II, a new long-term whaling programme in Antarctica, which would be made legal by a scientific research loophole. JARPA I (Japan’s Whale Research Program under Special Permit in Antarctica), in place since 1988, exclusively tracks and captures Minke whales. The annual quota of these “scientific” hunters was 300 whales. Since 1995, the total exceeds 400. All this takes place in the Antarctic Sanctuary established by the IWC in 1994.
According to the Institute of Cetacean Research, the leading body for Japanese scientific research, the paramount information gathered during 17 years of tracking and research under the framework of JARPA I is that Minke whales eat marine organisms! Essentially “200-300 kg” of krill per day during the Antarctic summer; a recurrent scoop known for a century by whalers. Krill, the cornerstone of Antarctica’s food chain, is a tiny zooplankton endemic to the Southern Ocean. Certain comments from the Japanese scientific community, and countries benefiting from Japanese development aid in the fishing industry, claim that the security of the human food chain is threatened by the voracity of these whales.
Another opportune discovery, even if half the world already knows it or at the east suspects it, is that the whales of the Southern Hemisphere are less affected by organochlorines and heavy metals than the whales of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the perfect opportunity for Japan to expand whaling in the Southern Hemisphere, knowing that the meeting of the IWC will have an agenda item dedicated to the risks to human health by the regular consumption of whale meat.
Lastly, another JARPA I conclusion is that Minke whales, whose population in the Southern Hemisphere is estimated to be 700,000, competes with blue whales for food and inhibits this endangered species from returning to an acceptable population level. This compassion for the blue whale, the largest marine mammal in the ocean, heightens the instinct of the hunter for whom the blue whale represents dreamed of benefits.
Not withstanding the prohibition of commercial whaling, under JARPA II Japan has taken the next step, deciding within the framework of its annual scientific research in Antarctica to double the capture of Minke whales (850) and also launch research on humpback whales (50 captures) and fin whales (50 captures). To continue krill behavioral research in the stomachs of marine fauna, Japan, under the JARPA II framework intends to capture crabeator seals and cephalopods. Penguins could also be in the line of fire. JARPA II states, “it may be possible and desirable, through selective harvesting, to accelerate the recovery of blue and fin whale toward the early days when the blue and fin whales were the dominant species.
It is high time for the international community and public opinion to oppose the revival of commercial hunting of marine mammals by every possible means, including diplomatic pressure from within or outside the IWC, as in the past, before pollution and the threat of global climate change. The meat and other bi-products of scientific whaling are sold on the domestic Japanese market. The Institute of Cetacean Research argues that these whale products are sold in Japan in a transparent and equitable manner.