Five Japanese whaling ships will take up again the first commercial whale hunt since 1986.
For the first time in 33 years and despite international outcry, five Japanese fishing vessels will leave their port on Monday to resume commercial whale hunting.
The Asian country had announced six months ago that it will withdraw on June 30 from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is the global body charged with the conservation of whales and the management of whale hunting. The decision came after the IWC rejected the proposition to resume the hunting of species that have, according to Japanese officials, recovered.
"The IWC is maintaining its ban on commercial whaling for very good reasons and world leaders meeting in Japan this week should not turn a blind eye to the cruel assault planned on whales of the North Pacific,” the president of Humane Society International, Kitty Block, said.
In Ayukawa, a village in the north of the country, officials, and fishermen believe that resumption to commercial whale hunting will revive the economy and bring back tourists, as it was severely affected by the 2011 Tsunami. One vessel and several fishermen will leave Monday from the village.
“Ayukawa is very remote, road access is poor and there’s no space for industry, so whaling is the best way for the town to make the most of its natural resources,” Shinetsu Oikawa, a local official said, adding that “now we want tourists to come and eat whale meat, spend money and help us truly recover from the disaster.”
A large tourist center will open in September with restaurants serving whale meat. However, the president of the Japanese Whaling Association, Kazuo Yamamura, recalled that domestic consumption of whale meat has dropped from 200,000 tons in the 1960s to less than 5,000 tons in recent years.
In the last 30 years, food has become more diversified in the country and there are "many things to eat," he said, adding that the situation has changed compared to what it used to be, and that producing whale meat will no longer generate important amounts of money as it was the case three decades ago.
Japan’s decision is being widely condemned by the international community as the country and its pro-whaling prime minister Shinzo Abe is hosting the G20 summit in the city of Osaka. Conservationist groups wrote an open letter to urge G20 leaders to intervene and publicly condemn the country’s decision.
We are here in London with other NGOs to march to the Japanese Embassy in protest against Japan’s return to commercial whaling. Our senior marine scientist Mark Simmonds speaks to the crowd about why we must protect these ocean leviathans #SaveTheWhales pic.twitter.com/WkJ7Nnbeww— HSI United Kingdom (@HSIUKorg) June 29, 2019
“It has taken the combined efforts of every nation on earth to bring whale conservation to the fore,” the naturalist and TV presenter Steve Backshall said. “At the G20 summit, our leaders need to talk to our friends in Japan, and let them know that on this issue, they are deeply at odds with the rest of the world.”
On the other hand, the decision to return to whale hunting comes when conservation groups along with scientists warn that the most important threat to whales conservation is related to human activity, including fishing. In the 20th century, many whale species have been hunted for profit to the brink of extinction.
Today, some of these whale populations are stable or slowly recovering, while many others continue to decrease. Of the 13 main whale species, seven are currently classified as endangered.