Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Whaling in Japan
Japan catches some whales, mainly amongst the south Pacific population of Minke Whale, each year. The purpose of this killing is hotly, and perhaps irreconcilably, disputed by the pro- and anti- whaling lobbies. Fundamentally, the Japanese Government and those who manage its whaling activities, say the whaling is for scientific research. Those opposed to Japanese whaling, such as the governments of the United States and other western countries, say the whaling is a thinly-disguised way of carrying out commercial whaling.
All parties agree that Japan believes that a commercial hunt of Minke Whales and possibly other species would be sustainable and that it wishes to re-commence commercial whaling. This is evidenced by a petition to the International Whaling Commission each year requesting that a quota for a commercial Minke Whale hunt be given. Although the IWC General Committee is split roughly 50-50 on whether commercial whaling should recommence, the petition has not yet come close to passing because a change to the morartorium requires a 75% majority under IWC rules.
As this impasse remains, Japan continues to hunt under scientific research grounds. The Japanese public at large appear to consider this activity to be a cover too. However, they appear to consider such tactics to be justifiable in response to perceived dysfunctional nature of the IWC.
One of the main dividing issues in the implementation of the moratorium was the reliability of existing data on whale population. Critics argued that the existing data was inappropriate for estimating population dynamics, as they are derived mostly from commercial sources which are unrepresentative in terms of age, sex and distribution. This criticism in turn provided a rationale for Japan to push for whaling for scientific purposes. Those building the anti-whaling argument point out that the scientific catch used the same boats, crew and equipment going to the same area of the Pacific Ocean as the commercial hunt carried out prior to the morartorium. Japan says that the scientific research is genuine and absolutely necessary. Indeed it seeks to provide answers to questions about the number of whales, age composition, sex ratio, and natural mortality rate of whales, in order to ascertain whether a commercial catch would be sustainable.
The research is conducted under the auspices of the Institute of Cetacean Research. The institute is privately-owned but non-profit. The institute receives its funding from whaling company Kyodo Senpaku and from government subsidies. Kyodo Senpaku was formed in 1987 (formerly Kyodo Hogei, since 1976) and is a consolidation of earlier whaling departments of Japanese fisheries. Kyodo Senpaku is a for-profit company that conducts the collection, processing and selling wholesale of the whale specimens on behalf of the research institute. It sells roughly US$60 million worth of whale products each year. It is a requirement of IWC membership to sell any meat taken from research catches.
Japan carries out its research in two areas - a North Pacific catch and a Southern Hemisphere catch. In 2002, the latest year for which figures are available Japanese whalers took 5 Sperm, 39 Sei, 50 Bryde's and 150 Minke Whales in the northern catch area and 440 Minke Whales in the southern catchment area. This catch of 684 whales is about the same size as Norway's commercial catch, and slightly larger than all aboriginal whaling catches combined. Neither the International Whaling Commission nor its scientific committee have requested any research by the institute, and both have repeatedly criticized Japanese whaling, and called for it to cease.
In July 2004 it was reported (see ) that a working group of the Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic has drawn up plans to leave the IWC in order to join a new pro-whaling organization, or NAMMCO, because of the IWC's refusal to back the principle of sustainable commercial whaling. Japan is particularly opposed to the IWC's conservative committee, introduced in 2003, which it says exists solely to prevent any whaling, and the report says Japan plans to withhold some of its IWC membership fee.
The oldest description about whaling in Japan was recorded on Kojiki, a historical book written in 712. After this, whaling have been recorded again and again. Japanese people used whales for food, oil, material. It is said "There's nothing to throw away from a whale except its voice."
After World War II, people suffered from lack of food, so whales became a good alternative to meet.
IWC banned whaling, and commercial whaling have been stopped, though some reserch whaling still continues.
Japanese whaling since the suspension of commercial whaling
Whales taken by Japan while not bound by IWC suspension
Whales taken under Special Permit (scientific whaling)
|Year||Sperm||Sei||Bryde's||Minke (Northern area)||Minke (Southern area)||Total|
- An excellent explanation of the Japanese government's position on whaling is given in the book The Truth Behind The Whaling Dispute by Masayuki Komatsu, lead Japanese delegate to the IWC. It is available online in PDF format here.
- Whale watching
- Cuisine of Japan
- Culture of Japan
- Convention of Kanagawa
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