Japanese whaling set to expandAdelaide, Australia - As the 52nd meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) gets underway here, WWF, the conservation organization, has called on the Japanese government to abandon plans to expand the 'scientific' whaling that the Japanese Whaling Association has admitted is for commercial purposes.
The Japanese government officially says its intention to add 50 Bryde's and 10 Sperm whales, to its intended catch of 540 Minke whales, is part of a 'scientific research' programme. But the Japanese Whaling Association has openly stated that the whales are wanted for food. In brochures widely circulated in Australia, it has called for cultural understanding and compared Japanese consumption of whale meat to Australians eating meat pies.
"This is not a question of respect or disrespect for Japanese culture," said Cassandra Phillips, WWF's coordinator for whales and the Antarctic. "It is a question of recognizing that what happens to Bryde's and Sperm whales, like Minkes, is a matter for the international community to decide, not just Japan. We will never be able to ensure a future for whales if some nations continue to exploit loopholes in the IWC for their own commercial purposes."
Though a moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since 1986, a loophole in the Whaling Convention allows IWC members to catch whales for scientific purposes. For the past 13 years, Japan has been exploiting this loophole and whaling on a commercial scale, though the IWC has stated that the information provided by Japan is not needed for management. Every year the IWC has passed Resolutions criticising Japan's whaling, but because IWC Resolutions are non-binding, they have had no apparent effect. Of particular concern to the majority of IWC members is the fact that much of the "scientific " whaling takes place in the Southern Ocean, designated as a permanent whale sanctuary since 1994.
Even before this year's threatened expansion to include two more species of whales, Japan has been increasing its annual catch of whales. When its "scientific" whaling started in the 1987/88 season, its self-awarded quota was 300 Minke whales, while this year the total planned is 600 including Bryde's and Sperm whales. At this IWC meeting, Japan and its allies, including several Caribbean island states, are also planning to block attempts to create a new international sanctuary for whales in the South Pacific.
"It is time for Japan to stop putting its efforts into undermining the IWC, and instead to focus on working with the international community to ensure a safe future for the world's whales," Cassandra Phillips added.
For further information:
Cassandra Phillips in Adelaide, Australia: tel: +44 7785 920 617
Kyla Evans, Press Officer, in Adelaide, Australia: tel: +41 76 368 0511