Japan’s whaling season in the Northwest Pacific Ocean has ended with a toll of 177 whales captured and killed.
Three whaling ships left port last June slaughtering 43 minke whales and 134 sei whales.
Japan has been a traditional whaling powerhouse for centuries, especially in recent history when whale meat became an important part of the general population’s diet during the tight economical post-WWII years.
Their practices were unrestrained until 1986, when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed on the country a moratorium on commercial whaling.
Japan managed to interpret the rules in its favor, unifying private companies under an official entity called the “Institute of Cetacean Research” (ICR) and stating their hunting activities were carried out in the name of science.
Despite IWC members opposing Japan’s move, the International Whaling Commission allowed it under their rules.
The country sells the meat after their supposed “research” in what is an obvious covert commercial activity that activists and animal rights organizations have denounced in multiple occasions throughout the years.
Japan has gone as far as slaughtering whales in the Southern Ocean, an internationally designated whale sanctuary since 1994.
Their whaling programme has been the subject of various corruption scandals, one of the most famous in 2011 when it was unveiled that millions of dollars from the tsunami relief fund where funneled to the whaling industry.
Their nefarious practices were also exposed in the Oscar-winning documentary from 2009 ‘The Cove’ which revealed that Japan’s whaling industry kills nearly 23,000 dolphins and porpoises each year.
In 2014, the UN’s International Court of Justice ruled that their operations in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, were not in accordance with international regulations and ordered Japan to cease their activities. Ignoring the court order, Prime Minister Abe called for the resumption of whaling operations the following year.
Australia’s federal environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, criticised Japan at the time, throwing at them some hard and disapproving words “The Australian government is deeply disappointed that Japan has decided to return to the Southern Ocean this summer to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,”
No further action was taken by Turnbull’s government though.
Australian Marine Conservation Society director, Darren Kindleysides, said the government should have a stronger position to hold Japan accountable for their actions.
“Rather than rolling out the red carpet for Japanese Prime Minister Abe, our government must take every legal and diplomatic avenue available to stop his government’s continued whaling, for example through the United Nations convention on the law of the sea,” he said.
A poll in 2014 found that fewer and fewer Japanese people eat whale meat regularly today, and tourists are generally reluctant to try it.