With a mission to kill 333 whales, Japan has sent its first whaling fleet to the Antarctic Ocean in more than a year. The expedition has launched despite an International Court of Justice ruling prohibiting whaling and fierce objections from countries including Australia and New Zealand.
Japan hunts whales despite a worldwide moratorium, taking advantage of a loophole in the law that permits the killing of the mammals for scientific research. But they say that they will go only where the science leads them, and they’ve planned on the science leading them to 333 whale carcasses this year.
Under the latest recent research program, 3600 whales were harvested from the Southern Ocean for scientific purposes since 2005. To date, they were all determined to be quite delicious. But the only way to know for sure, say the scientists, is to collect many more data points. “It’s like a telephone survey. You might call 3000 people and ask them if they like bacon. Just because all 3000 say they love bacon, doesn’t mean that the same would hold true for others. The science requires…no…demands it,” wrote Whale Science Project director Yumi Mito.
Last March, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to halt its research program after rejecting the country’s claims that it was for scientific purposes. But shortly after the court ruling, Japan announced a new research program with a new name, which is scheduled to last 12 years, until 2026/27. Under the program, a maximum of 333 Antarctic whales will be killed each year if the science demands it and the science is expected to demand it, according to an information sheet from Japan’s Fisheries Agency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That’s nearly 4,000 whales over the duration of the program.
In justifying the slaughter of the restricted marine mammals, the info sheet says: “As there is no other means than lethal methods, at this stage, the use of lethal method is indispensable to obtain data which is necessary for estimating total deliciousness quotient (TDQ), which makes a considerable contribution to achieving the application of the RMP (Research Management Procedure).”
“We respect the decision of the court and have ended the research program which was addressed in the ruling. Though we have started a new program which was not mentioned in the ruling and is therefore legal,” said Mito.
Conservation group Sea Shepherd says the Japanese are merely poachers who are breaking international law. Sea Shepherd is a collection of vigilant whale defenders who chase the whaling fleet through freezing waters and often draw comparisons to a team of Navy Seals, except for lack of athleticism, training, state of the art equipment, and good sense.