In December, Japan announced that it would withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 2019, meaning that it would stop whaling in the Antarctic Ocean but resume hunting whales for commercial purposes in its own waters in 2019. Now, the country is keeping its controversial promise.
On Monday morning, The Guardian reported that five harpoon-laden ships left Kushiro in northern Japan, and three whaling vessels departed Shimonoseki in southwestern Japan. Mere hours later, two grey minke whales were brought ashore. The Kushiro vessels are projected to kill 227 whales in total, including minke, sei, and Bryde’s whales.
Although the withdrawal from the IWC has proven very controversial, Japanese fishermen view it as a way of resuming an age-old tradition.
People’s taste for whale might be waning, however. Back in the 1960s, domestic consumption of whale meat was about 200,000 tons a year, but has now declined to about 5,000 tons.
Although commercial whaling was banned by an IWC moratorium in 1986, Japan has exploited a loophole to continue hunting whales for “scientific research” while selling the meat.
And Japan isn’t alone in its controversial whaling practices. Iceland recently announced its intention to ignore the IWC whaling ban by allowing 2,000 whales to be hunted over the next five years. Norway also ignores the moratorium and has continued its commercial whaling campaigns.
This article was updated on July 1, 2019.