Japan’s Antarctic Whaling Plan

Environmental conservation, while considered by most people to be vital to our survival and the maintenance of our ecological systems, is seldom easy to execute. Industries often have to weigh the need for economic growth versus environmental consequences; most people have to weigh the convenience of modern-day life versus pollution from transportation, consumerism and waste; and some countries like Japan, find themselves defending their hunting history and culture against international bodies that protect species like whales.

This April, Japan made a play to resume Antarctic whale hunting for scientific purposes – and was opposed by experts from the International Whaling Commission (“IWC”). Kemplon Engineering takes a closer look at the issue.

Japan and Whaling
The country’s whaling history goes back centuries, with some tools like hand harpoons dating to 10,000 BC. Whale meat had also helped feed their citizens during and after World War II, and is still part of the Japanese diet. Attempts by foreign powers to curtail their whaling activities is perceived by some in the nation as threatening to Japanese tradition, and an imposition of one culture into another.

According to defenders of Japanese whaling, their minke whale targets are plentiful, and enough to be hunted sustainably as a renewable food source. An international whaling moratorium has been established since the 1980s, however, such that Japan had for years been resorting to what was referred to as “scientific whaling.”

The Proposal
Japan has a long history of doing “lethal research” to have a better understanding of whale populations, so that they could eventually resume commercial whaling. For this most recent proposal, Japan is targeting a resumption of Antarctic whale hunting by the end of 2015, proposing to take 333 of the Antarctic’s minke whales annually. According to the plan, research killing could provide information on the calculation of sustainable hunting levels, as well as information on the Antarctic ecosystem.

The IWC was opposed to the plan on the grounds that the plan does not prove there is a need for killing the whales while sampling and studying them. Japanese representatives aim to provide more data to further their case, prior to an IWC meeting in May.

Many conservationist critics, however, have stated that the number of whales Japan is targeting, plus the marketing of whale meat, suggests their purpose is not really for research in spite of the scientific rationale they provide.

Are Japanese representatives abusing the “scientific” veneer of their hunts, as they are being accused by some of their critics? Then again, is the rest of the world unfairly imposing limitations on a long-standing practice that is culturally important to the Japanese people? Is the answer somewhere between the two?

It’s a sticky situation, indeed. On the one hand is the very admirable efforts of international bodies to protect precious whale species. On the other, is a country trying to protect a sense of identity in a wider, international political sphere. We at Kemplon Engineering hope that a solution can be found amongst the parties that would be both environmentally sustainable, and fair to all involved.

^ “Japan Won’t Accept “No” to Whaling.” The Maritime Executive, 13 Apr 2015. Web. 27 Apr 2015. http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/japan-wont-accept-no-to-whaling
^ McCurry, Justin. “Experts reject Japan’s new whaling plan.” The Guardian, 14 Apr 2015. Web. 27 Apr 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/14/experts-reject-japans-new-whaling-plan
^ “Whaling body experts question Japan’s new Antartic plan.” Business Insider, 13 Apr 2015. Web. 27 Apr 2015. http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-whaling-body-experts-question-japans-new-antartic-plan-2015-4
^ “Why Do the Japanese Hunt Whales? Whale Wars.” Animal Planet. Web. Accessed 27 Apr 2015. http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/whale-wars/about-whaling/why-japanese-hunt-whales/