Japan Resumes Fin Whale Hunting Despite Criticism and Controversy

3 mins

Japan’s recent decision to include fin whales in its commercial fishing, is expected to face significant backlash

Conservationists have condemned Japan’s decision to add large fin whales to its list of species which can be killed for meat.

The move comes five years after Tokyo left the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a regulatory body that regulates the commercial hunt of the marine mammals. It will come into force in July.

‘Whales are important food resources and should be sustainably utilised, based on scientific evidence,’ said Yoshimasa Hayashi, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, referring to widening the allowable catch to include fin whales.

‘It’s also important to inherit traditional food cultures in Japan.’

But Ren Yabuki, Director of the Life Investigation Agency, a Japanese group which works to protect aquatic species, attacked the ruling.

fin whale in front of fishing boat
Fin whales are the second-largest species of whale, smaller only than blue whales

He said: ‘Demand for whale meat in Japan has plummeted. Under this circumstances, it is completely incomprehensible why the Japanese Government is including new species to slaughter.

‘It is clear that whales are now irreplaceable to the planet and play a crucial role in carbon sequestration (by storing carbon in their bodies and transporting nutrients that benefit ocean food chains).

‘Considering the current state of the planet under crisis and every countries, especially with huge carbon emissions like Japan, have responsibilities to work towards carbon neutral, the Japanese Government is constantly acting in a way that is against global consensus that harms the environment that we all live in.

‘The world needs to condemn the act of the Japanese government.’

Fin whales are the second-largest species of whale, smaller only than blue whales, which are the largest animals in the world. The fin whale is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Japan’s Fisheries agency decided to add fin whales to the list after surveys confirmed there were plentiful stocks of them in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Japan’s Whaling History

Japan caught a total of 294 minke whales, Bryde’s whales and sei whales last year, said the Fisheries Agency, which until the new legislation limited commercial whaling to the three  species. The area where whales can be hunted is limited to Japan’s territorial waters and a wider Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Whale consumption in Japan peaked in the early 1960s but did not become widespread as other meat became more easily available. In recent years it has further declined in popularity, especially among younger people.

Japan drew criticism from environmental groups for launching what it called scientific research whaling in 1987, following an IWC regulation that banned commercial whale hunts.

Australia and New Zealand were among the nations that expressed disappointment when Japan declared it was withdrawing from the IWC in 2018.

Next to the blue whale, the fin whale is the second largest mammal in the world. They have a distinct ridge along their back behind the dorsal fin, which gives it the nickname “razorback.” Fin whales have a very unusual feature: the lower right jaw is bright white and the lower left jaw is black.

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