A Whale Call for Help

Although considered a mostly ancient practice fit for the likes of men such as Captain Ahab in the novel Moby Dick, whaling is in fact still exercised today. No other country practices whaling quite like Japan, who according to an article featured on The New York Times’ website on October 13th of this year, has slaughtered approximately 3,600 whales since 2005.
Despite International Sanctions laid out by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japan has continued to kill these creatures via a loophole in the Commission’s regulations. In 1986, the Commission banned commercial whaling, but according to an article on the National geographic website, Article Eight of the 1986 ban warranted the killing of whales for scientific purposes. Therefore, Japanese whaling cruisers have been donned with “research”, written in English on their sides, in order to justify their murdering of whales. These cruisers claim that the Japanese government is collecting tissue samples of the whales in order to gather scientific data on certain whale species, such as minke whales.


Whale tied to the side of a japanese "research" vessel.
Whale tied to the side of a Japanese “research” vessel.

Japan has been able to carry on with their whaling practices for quite some time, until the International Court of Justice ruled in March of this year that Japan’s hunt for whales was not attributed to scientific purposes, but rather commercial ones under their whaling program in the Antarctic (JARPA II). Although Leah Gerber, a marine mammal biologist at Arizona State University in Tempe stated that Japan does collect some of the whales’ organs for use in research, a vast majority of the whales captured by Japanese vessels goes to market, where it’s sold for consumption. In fact, only two peer-reviewed scholarly articles have been produced from years of “scientific whaling”. This information was taken from an article published on National Geographic’s website on March 31st.
The suit was brought to the UN court by Australia, and Japan issued a statement claiming they would abide by the court’s ruling, until they created a new whaling program to go around the restrictions issued to them after the trial. The New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A) focusses on killing 333 minke whales per year over 12 years, meaning by the program’s end in 2027, 3,996 more whales will be killed. The plan is to be reviewed by the IWC first, but while it is still in the process of revising it, the IWC has no legal authority to block the resumption of “research whaling”. This information was extracted from an article posted in November, 2014 on the Whaling and Dolphin Commission’s website.
Although whaling for scientific research is merited, Japan will continue to kill whales for commercial practices under a “scientific” banner. Perhaps the IWC can set regulations on just how many whales a country is allowed to kill for scientific purposes, on top of banning commercial whaling. But until a solution such as that arises, whales in the Antarctic and elsewhere will be murdered nonetheless. For science, eh?


New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/14/opinion/the-big-lie-behind-japanese-whaling.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%221%22%3A%22RI%3A7%22}&_r=0

National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140331-whaling-japan-international-court-ocean-animal-conservation/ , http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140331-whaling-japan-international-court-ocean-animal-conservation/

Whale and Dolphin Commission: http://us.whales.org/news/2014/11/business-usual-japan-publishes-new-research-whaling-plan



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