Officials maintain a third of previous numbers will be caught and insist plan is scientifically sound
The Japanese government says it has taken into account the court ruling and its “scientific” whaling programme will catch only a third of the minke whales it caught under its previous programme – 333 instead of 1,000 – which it halted in March last year.
Japan’s international whaling commissioner, Joji Morishita, said in a letter that his government had “sincerely taken into account” recommendations of the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee. He said Japan’s new programme “does not require any substantial changes” and confirmed whaling would resume.
However, the announcement has been condemned by environmental groups and the Australian and UK governments. A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We are deeply disappointed with Japan’s decision to restart whaling in the Southern Ocean. This undermines the global ban on commercial whaling which the UK strongly supports.”
The International Fund for Animal Welfare said Japan’s new programme would result in the slaughter of nearly 4,000 whales over the next 12 years in an expanded Antarctic killing zone. The charity is urging supporters to write to Foreign Office minister James Duddridge to ask the British government to challenge Japan’s plan “and lack of regard for international law”.
Greg Hunt, Australia’s environment minister, said Japan cannot unilaterally decide to start whaling in the Antarctic Ocean again against the advice of scientists. The Japanese Fisheries Agency has notified the IWC that it will resume whaling in the 2015-16 season under a revised plan. The commission is reviewing the science behind the plan and has raised serious concerns.
“Australia strongly opposes the decision by Japan to resuming whaling in the Southern Ocean this summer,” Hunt said on Saturday. “It cannot unilaterally decide whether it has adequately addressed the scientific committee’s questions.”
Hunt said Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and foreign minister Julie Bishop have also directly told Japan that Australia does not support whaling. “[We] will continue to pursue the issue through the IWC and in direct discussions with Japan,” he said.
“We would like to remind the Japanese government that the whales of the Southern Ocean are protected by international law, by Australian law and by Sea Shepherd,” chief executive Alex Cornelissen said.
“As such, any violation of the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary or the Australian Whale Sanctuary will be regarded as a criminal act.”
Sea Shepherd’s main ship, the Steve Irwin, is docked in Melbourne, but the group did not say whether it would trail the Japanese whalers on any new hunts.
Australia won a case against Japan last year in the international court of justice. The court ruled that Japan’s “scientific” whaling programme was not scientific at all and ordered Tokyo to recall its fleet.
Japan started its whaling programme in 1987, a year after an international moratorium was enacted. It accuses critics of sentimentality and disregarding scientific evidence about sustainability. Japan also maintains that most species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its food culture.
The ICJ says Japan has caught some 3,600 minke whales since its current programme began in 2005. In April 2013, Japan announced its whaling haul from the Southern Ocean was at a record low because of “unforgivable sabotage” by activists from the environmental group Sea Shepherd.
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