Once again, Japan kills over 300 whales – In a press release, the agency described the mission as “research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea”
A Japanese whaling ship leaving the port of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan on December 2015 to resume whale hunting in the Antarctic (AFP)
In defiance of global criticism, a Japanese whaling fleet returned to port on Friday after an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals.
News agencies reported that the fleet had set out in November for the Southern Ocean with plans to slaughter 333 minke whales. The expedition flouted a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.
Of the five ships that were part of the hunting fleet, three arrived at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, the country’s Fisheries Agency said.
In a press release, the agency described the mission as “research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea”.
But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (IJC) call that a fiction, and say the real purpose is simply to hunt whales for their meat.
“Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed,” said Kitty Block, the group’s executive vice president.
“It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end,” she said in a release.
Japan also caught 333 minke whales in the previous season ending in 2016 after a one-year hiatus prompted by an IJC ruling, which said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science and ordered Tokyo to end it.
Japan has hunted whales for centuries. Whale meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years.
Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986. —With Agency inputs
Run-ins with ICJ
In response to the ICJ ruling, Japan’s 2014-15 mission carried out only ‘non-lethal research’ such as taking skin samples and doing head-counts. Past missions have been hampered by a confrontational campaign on the high seas by environmentalists Sea Shepherd, though Japan has won some relief through the courts. A fisheries agency official said that the whalers this time faced “no obstructive behaviour threatening safety of the fleet”. He attributed that to Japan having started dispatching fisheries agency patrol ships to protect the fleet.