Monday 26 January 2015

Antarctic whales' reprieve likely to be short lived

Two Japanese whale catcher vessels are in Antarctic waters once again to conduct scientific research. Unlike their previous "research" voyages over the past twenty eight years however, the vessels are not armed with explosive harpoons.


In 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favour of the case brought against Japan by Australia and instructed that Japan’s lethal scientific whaling program (JARPA II) was illegal and was to be discontinued immediately.


So, for the first summer since the International Whaling Commission (IWC) commercial whaling moratorium technically took effect in 1986, the sound of harpoon cannons will not be heard in the Southern Ocean.


Japan’s Antarctic research program this season will collect sightings data and biopsy skin samples, similar to activities conducted by Australia.


But by all accounts, this is only an one-off exercise.


Since the ICJ decision, Japan has been revamping JARPA II, developing a number of work-arounds in the hope that it can recommence Antarctic “scientific” whaling without contravening the Court’s rulings. Japanese delegates will seek support for its new program at the next meeting of the IWC Scientific Committee, taking place from 20 May to 4 June 2015.


Their intention at this stage is to resume killing Antarctic minke whales in late-2015 under its new program called NEWREP-A. This will be before the next full meeting of the IWC in mid-2016.


Japan’s actions continue to demonstrate that its whale research activities have more to do with restaurant menus than scientific knowledge and understanding.


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