Japan to Seek to Revive Its Antarctic Whaling Program After Ban

Japan will revise its plan for whaling in the Antarctic in an effort to revive the hunt following an International Court of Justice ban, the country’s agriculture minister said.

It will also go ahead with a planned harvest in the Northwest Pacific this year, seeking to catch fewer whales than initially targeted, Yoshimasa Hayashi said today in a statement on the ministry’s website.

The ICJ last month ordered a halt to what Japan calls a scientific research whaling program in the Southern Ocean, saying it could not establish that its design and implementation were reasonable for the purposes of such research. The court ruled on a suit brought by Australia, which described the hunt as a “ruse” to dodge the prohibition against commercial killing.

While expressing disappointment, Japan said it would respect the court’s decision and not hunt whales in the Antarctic this year. The government aims to present new whaling plans for both the Northwest Pacific and Antarctic, reflecting the findings of the court, to the International Whaling Commission by the autumn, with a view to restarting Antarctic whaling in 2015 or later, according to the statement today.

“Based on international law and scientific facts, we will carry out research whaling to obtain necessary scientific information for the management of whale resources and we maintain our policy of aiming for the resumption of commercial whaling,” the minister said in the statement.

The new plans will be drawn up in a “transparent” manner, involving well-known scientists and debate in IWC workshops, Hayashi said.

Commercial Moratorium

Since a moratorium on commercial whaling came into effect in 1986, Japan has utilized a clause allowing hunting for scientific research to slaughter the marine creatures. Most of the meat ends up on dining tables. Japan’s whaling fleet has frequently failed to reach its target catches in the Antarctic due to blocking tactics by anti-whaling groups such as Sea Shepherd.

The minister’s statement “shows Japan does not take the ICJ ruling seriously,” said Junichi Sato, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan, which has opposed whaling for decades. “It will create a brand-image crisis for Japan.”

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