Japan to Resume Whaling Next Year, Despite UN Ban

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Apparently undeterred by an international court’s recent order to stop whaling in the Antarctic, Japanese government officials will present a plan for resuming the hunts to the International Whaling Commission at the organization’s Sept. 15 meeting in Slovenia, according to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

The new plan is an effort to get around a March 2014 ruling by the International Court of Justice, the legal arm of the United Nations, which decided that Japan was abusing a loophole in international whaling restrictions that allows the killing of whales for scientific research, because the Japanese hadn’t looked at non-lethal methods for gathering data.

Marine conservationists elsewhere have denounced the Japanese scientific whaling program as a sham, saying that its real purpose is provide whale meat to Japanese consumers. In addition to being sold in markets and served in restaurants, about 100 tons of whale meat ends up in children’s school lunches annually, according to a 2013 Daily Beast article.

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According to Asahi Shimbun, Japanese officials will propose limiting the whale hunt to minke whales, and will reduce their harvest quota from the limit of 935 that Japanese whalers were allowed to kill each year. Under an international agreement that Japan signed in the 1980s, any resumption in Antarctic whaling would have to be reviewed and approved by the commission.

Japan has long argued that its whale harvest was necessary to gather data on whale populations such as age, growth rates and the amount of food consumed by the animals, which the Japan Whaling Association claims cannot be obtained from non-lethal sources such as DNA analysis. According to Asahi Shimbun, the government eventually hopes to use the data to argue for a resumption of commercial whaling.

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But the Japanese plan may be thwarted by New Zealand, whose government plans to counter by proposing that scientific killing of whales be banned altogether for 2015.

According to the Associated Press, Japan also allowed the killing of 160 whales along its coastline in 2013-14, which was not barred by the court’s ruling. That included 30 minke whales who were killed in Japanese waters in the three months after the court banned Antarctic whaling.

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