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Japan begins fin whale hunt

by News Room
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Japan has announced that it will add the fin whale – the country’s second largest animal after the blue whale – to its list of commercial cetacean species. This means that in addition to hunting Bryde’s, sei and minke whales, Japanese fishermen can now also hunt fin whales. This announcement is regrettable in many respects. The fin whale is on the red list of endangered species.

Whales off Antarctica looking for krill | Photo: ©Sea Shepherd Global

Earlier this month, the Japanese government announced plans to expand commercial whaling by allowing fin whale hunting. Although this intention can be publicly commented on until June 5, 2024, it is clear that the plans will continue regardless. For example, the foreign minister announced at a press conference that the Japanese government will continue to promote whaling and take diplomatic measures if necessary. This is bad news for fin whales.

Suffered badly

Fin whales can grow up to 24 meters long. The species has suffered greatly from whaling over the past century. In the first half of the 20th century, the fin whale population declined dramatically, when an estimated 50,000 fin whales were killed for commercial fishing. According to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the fin whale population is still recovering from the shock.

Japan begins fin whale hunt
Japan begins fin whale hunt | Image: Wikipedia via CC0

Cruel commercial hunting

The IWC decided in 1986 that commercial hunting of all whale species is no longer allowed. Japan was part of the IWC for many years, but left the commission in 2019. Amidst several domestic and international protests, Japan resumed the cruel commercial hunting of several species of whales. Unfortunately, Japan is now continuing the negative trend by allowing fin whale hunting from this season as well. This means that Japanese fishermen will be allowed to hunt fin whales in territorial waters and in the EEZ from this fishing season.

The death of a whale with a harpoon can take up to two hours

Preserving Japan’s cultural heritage is said to be the reason the Japanese government is expanding commercial whaling. It would be important that traditional Japanese food be protected and whale meat must therefore be available in sufficient quantities. In addition, the government states that whale meat is an important source of food for the Japanese population.

The demand for whale meat is marginal

It is noteworthy that the Japanese government is still holding on to the production of whale meat. For example, the demand for whale meat is said to be marginal and all kinds of ways are being invented to continue to obtain this meat. Recently, even snack machines containing whale meat have been installed, purely and simply to increase sales of whale meat. In addition, it is suspected that whaling is now being expanded in order to recoup the cost of the brand new giant ship “Kangei Maru” as quickly as possible.

Whales are not considered “climate savers”

A decisive role

The decrease in the number of whales is not only unfortunate for the species itself. Whales play a crucial role on Earth. During the whales’ journeys, the animals spread many nutrients. This enables the growth of plankton, for example, which in turn provides food for other animals. Half of all the oxygen on Earth comes from plankton in the ocean. Whales also store tons of carbon. For example, a large species of whale can absorb up to 30,000 tons of carbon in its lifetime. For comparison: a tree can store 20 kilograms of carbon per year.

Japan begins fin whale hunt
As a harpoon for whaling | Photo: public domain

Fin whale hunting has been severely criticized

Japan’s new development has been strongly criticized by many animal organizations, such as Born Free, Sea Shepherd, EIA, OceanCare and Humane Society International. In addition, Japan’s intention to allow fin whale hunting is against customary international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. According to these legal sources, Japan must comply with the IWC ban on commercial whaling.


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© Femke Oosterbaan Martinius

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