Monday 29 June 2020

Japan’s subsidised commercial whaling likely to continue


In November 2019 the Japanese Government approved a bill to guarantee the funding of commercial whaling. The Japanese Fisheries Agency, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has been granted ¥5.1 billion (A$69.3 million) per year. The industry had already enjoyed many years of public subsidies for its whaling operations, including its so-called ‘scientific whaling’ in the Southern Ocean.
 
Japan abandoned its whaling operations in Antarctic waters following a successful legal challenge by Australia in the International Court of Justice and continued global public pressure. Japan formally left the International Whaling Commission in June 2019, although it has retained its ‘observer’ status.
 
In July 2019, the word ‘RESEARCH’ - painted in huge letters on the sides of Japan’s whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru - was removed and the ship sailed from its home port of Shimonoseki to be joined by two harpoon-armed capture vessels.
 
The Japanese Government issued a commercial whaling quota for the 2019 hunt of 232 whales - 187 Bryde's, 25 sei and 20 minke whales – all to be caught within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The factory ship returned in October with its quota filled, with the exception of nine minkes.
 
A further quota of 100 minke whales was allocated to coastal whaling vessels conducting daily operations from five ports on Honshu and Hokkaido.
 
The bill authorises annual funding for promoting the consumption of whale meat, exploring whaling grounds, developing techniques for catching and processing whales, strengthening cooperation with other whaling nations as well providing vessels to deter ‘obstruction’ of its whaling operations by foreign anti-whaling organisations.
 
With its funding secured and a kill quota similar to 2019, it remains to be seen whether the COVID-19 pandemic will effect the departure of the Japanese whaling fleet scheduled for July this year.


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