On Friday, Japan’s whaling fleet returned from the Antarctic where they reached their goal under a new research whaling program for the second year. This year the fleet returned with 333 whales.
This year’s expedition was four-months long and included a fleet of five ships. The Fishery Agency states that this year’s expedition in the Antarctic wrapped up with little interference from anti-whaling activists. Activists have repeatedly attempted to stop the slaughter in the past, reports ABC News.
Officials in Japan claim that the hunt is done for ecological research. Whaling done for research is permitted as an exception to the 1886 international ban on whaling. Activists and other opponents of the whaling expedition argue that the event is not ecological, but commercial because the whales are sold as food.
Fisheries Agency official Shigeto Hase stated at a ceremony, that was attended by about 200 people after the fleets return that it was great that the event again achieved its goal. He added that they would continue to do research toward a return to commercial whaling.
In 2014, the International Court Justice ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling program should be halted because it was not done for the scientific reasons that Tokyo was claiming. In 2015 Japan completed non-lethal research in the Antarctic and in 2016 they reduced their catch quota by one-third.
Officials in Japan claim that whalers use parts of the whale for research to determine the whale’s age, reproductive conditions, and nutrition. Activists state that those studies can be conducted without slaughtering whales, reports FOX News.
The vice president of the Humane Society International, Kitty Block, says that Japan is needlessly slaughtering whales every year. She called the event “obscene cruelty.” She added that in the name of science the practice needed to be stopped.
Japan has hunted and eaten whales for centuries. Whale meat is a source of protein that is far cheaper than other types of meat. Whale catches have declined over the years and the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd is part of the reason why reports NPR.
It is possible that Japan’s whaling may see new restrictions in the future. Officials in Japan must submit its proposed catch to the group IWC. It is expected that the IWC will ask for further justification as to why a scientific program must slaughter the large ocean mammals to study them.
Critics of the slaughter say that whaling is a dying industry, but Japan continues to spend copious amounts of tax dollars to sustain the Antarctic whaling expeditions. Japanese officials say that whaling is a cultural tradition that should be preserved.
By Tammy Marie Rose
Photo Courtesy Australian Customs and Border Protection Service