Sunday 19 April 2015

Japan's scientific whaling proposal rejected by Whaling Commission scientists

After the International Court of Justice (ICJ) instructed Japan in 2014 to revoke the self-issued “scientific whaling” permits that have allowed its whalers to kill whales in the Antarctic, and to refrain from issuing further such permits, the Japanese Government announced that it would abide by the judgment, insisting that it “places a great importance on the international legal order and the rule of law as a basis of the international community”.


By the end of the year however, word was out that Japan had prepared a new lethal Antarctic whaling program, called NEWREP-A, with the intention of resuming killing minke whales by late-2015. The stated objectives of the so-called research are to (a) improve in the precision of biological and ecological information about the Antarctic minke whales and (b) investigate of the structure and dynamics of the Antarctic marine ecosystem through building ecosystem models.


Seeking to gain some credibility for NEWREP-A, and in an attempt to avoid the ire the of the ICJ, Japan submitted the proposal to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).


An IWC Scientific Committee Expert Panel met in Tokyo, Japan in early February this year to review Japan’s NEWREP-A proposal.


The Expert Panel comprised scientists from Norway, Italy, Spain, the UK and the USA. Experts from Japan, Australia, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa were also in attendance as observers.


The role of the Panel was to review the NEWREP-A proposal from a scientific perspective, to determine if its research methodology, i.e. “scientific whaling”, was necessary to gain the biological and ecological information that Japan is seeking. In particular, the Panel was instructed to provide advice and suggestions on components of the programme that might be achieved using non-lethal methods.


The Panel found that NEWREP-A ”does not demonstrate the need for lethal sampling” to achieve its stated objectives. In fact, Japan’s proposal did not even contain sufficient information for the Panel complete a full and comprehensive review.


The Panel’s findings will be considered in detail at a full meeting of the IWC Scientific Committee in May this year. The Scientific Committee will then report to the next biennial meeting of the IWC, scheduled for September 2016. Given these timeframes, it would be inappropriate for Japan to send its whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean next summer. Instead, they should continue the non-lethal Antarctic whale research effort that commenced during the southern summer of 2014-15.


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