Japan Loses Bid for Expanded Research Whale Hunt

ULSAN, South Korea, June 22, 2005 (ENS) - The International Whaling Commission passed a resolution Wednesday condemning Japan’s so-called scientific whaling program in Antarctica and calling on the Japanese to stop. The resolution was proposed by Australia and co-sponsored by 25 other whale conservation countries.

It succeeded with 30 votes for, 27 against and one abstention from the Solomon Islands.

Japan took a proposal to the IWC to more than double its take of minke whales and to start taking humpback and fin whales. The plan is to take up to 935 minke, 50 humpback and 50 fin whales per year. The first two years will be a feasibility study, in which no humpback whales will be taken, and the number of fin whales will be limited to a maximum of 10.

It is the latest setback for Japan, which has threatened to pull out of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), meeting this week in the South Korean city of Ulsan.

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Australian Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell has led the attack on Japanese whaling during this IWC meeting. (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
“Australia and pro-conservation nations have today won a massive victory for whale conservation,” said Australian Environment Minister Senator Campbell at the meeting. This year, Australia launched an unprecedented drive to stop Japanese whaling.

“This is a fantastic outcome because it reinforces Australia’s determination to ensure all commercial and so-called scientific whaling is consigned to the dustbin of history," the minister said.

“It is imperative now that Japan and the pro-whaling nations comply completely with the decision by this world whaling body," Campbell said. “To do anything different would signficantly damage Japan’s international standing and seriously undermine the whole credibility of the IWC."

Japan also conducts a research program in the western North Pacific which includes the take of 150 minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales, 50 sei whales and 10 sperm whales.

“Japan’s lethal scientific research suffered a battering," said Humane Society International’s Nicola Beynon. "Country after country lined up to attack the credibility of the research and to express their alarm at Japan’s intention to double the hunt of minke whales and to start hunting threatened humpback and fin whales.”

Benyon, with the Humane Society's headquarters office in Australia, views Australia's resolution as important but says it will not stop the Japanese whale hunt.

"Japan is impervious to this level of pressure and has already indicated they will go ahead with the hunt regardless,” said Beynon. “The anti-whaling countries need to elevate their protests to higher levels if they are to stop the Antarctic hunt going ahead."

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Whale sliced open on the deck of a Japanese whaler. (Photo courtesy NZ DOC)
In addition to reviewing the research carried out by member nations and other research groups, the IWC sponsors and promotes international research. "As part of their response to the decision for a pause in commercial whaling," the Commission explains on its website, "some member governments have implemented major research programs which may include the sampling of whales caught under special permits which the Convention allows them to grant."

The International Whaling Commission was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which was signed in Washington, DC on December 2, 1946.

Wednesday’s vote marks the 41st time the global body has passed a resolution critical of Japan’s research whaling program.

“It’s time for the Japanese Government to respect the rest of the world and the IWC, said Dr. Joth Singh, director of wildlife and habitat with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "It’s time to stop whaling.”

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Joji Morishita is one of seven commissioners who represent Japan on the International Whaling Commission. (Photo credit unknown)
The Japanese viewpoint is different. "As long as any species is abundant and sustainably utilized or sustainably researched, we should not handle different species in different way. It is just another species," said Joji Morishita, a Japanese International Whaling Commission commissioner.

"The only take which is allowed in the International Whaling Commission is for research purposes. And that is what we have been doing and we have submitted a very good research plan," he said.

Japan lost in other votes as well. The IWC members rejected a Japanese proposal for the IWC to abolish a whale sanctuary in the Antarctica region, and on Thursday turned down a Japanese proposal for the IWC to allow coastal whaling.

On the fourth day of the five day annual meeting, IWC members voted down a request that Japan be allowed to catch up to 150 minke whales every year off the Pacific coast of northern Japan.