Politics trumps science at whaling talks
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee gathered last month to assess Japan’s plans to hunt 333 minke whales annually over the next twelve years. Although many whale experts concluded that there is no scientific justification for the proposed kills, the committee, of which Japan itself is a member, could not reach a consensus opinion.
Last year the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Japan’s previous whale hunts were of a commercial nature and “not for purposes of scientific research.” The country has since announced that it will issue new scientific permits to its fleet, which could enable whaling to begin again later this year under an outdated treaty loophole that allows the killing of whales for science.
“The committee undertook a good faith exercise to look at whether or not Japan’s new whaling proposal had scientific merit. Members examined the conclusions of an expert panel that said it did not, as well as additional information provided by Japan. Still, though, the case for lethal takes had not been made, so the committee was not convinced of the need to hunt whales for science,” said Aimee Leslie, WWF’s global cetacean and marine turtle manager who attended the confidential negotiations.
“Despite a failure to prove that its hunts are necessary for research or useful to the commission, Japan appears determined to continue killing whales, whose meat will end up available for sale. Continuing illegitimate whale hunts in the name of science makes a mockery of the IWC and the ICJ.”
Although the committee was unable to make a definitive recommendation to the full commission, it did request that further analysis be completed for additional review at its next session in 2016. This outcome led many members to conclude that commencement of lethal sampling this winter is not justified.
“As a responsible member of the international community, Japan should respect the spirit of the world court ruling and the recommendations of the IWC, and srefrain from hunting whales under the pretense of scientific research. If the country begins so-called scientific whaling again, it will face renewed global condemnation,” Leslie says.