Japan has announced plans to send its whaling fleet to the Antarctic Ocean under its new scaled-down scientific whale research program despite the public outcry against its lethal whaling practices.
The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that the fleet would head for the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, December 1st and that it plans to catch up to 333 minke whales on annual basis in the following 12-year period.
Once caught, the whales are killed because, as claimed by the Japanese government, samples on their maturing age can only be taken through lethal sampling. Environmentalists claim that the scientific research in question could be conducted by non-lethal means.
The newly set target represents one third of the previously targeted 1,000 whales.
The announcement comes after almost two years of whaling suspension following the ruling made by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands in 2014, that banned hunting whales off Antarctica.
According to the ruling, Japan’s whaling program was not scientific in nature but more commercial, as the meat of the slaughtered whales was being sold commercially in Japan.
In March this year, Japanese whaling ships returned home from the Antarctic research mission with no catch onboard for the first time in nearly 30 years.
According to the lawsuit filed against Japan by Australia, almost 95 percent of the 14,410 whales hunted for the said research purposes have been killed.
Last month in a special declaration, Japan advised United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moo that it would deny the jurisdiction of the ICJ in matters pertaining to the “research on, or conservation, management or exploitation of, living resources of the sea,” thereby negating any further legal challenges to its whaling program in the international court.
This was followed by a ruling on November 18th by the Australian Federal Court which found the Japanese government-funded whaling company, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd, guilty of breaching a 2008 order to stop killing whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, and fined if AUD 1 million for the breach, which the company refuses to pay.
CEO of Sea Shepherd Global, Captain Alex Cornelissen, has condemned Japan’s plans to return to the Southern Ocean to slaughter whales this austral summer.
“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. 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,” said Cornelissen.
Sea Shepherd has again called on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene to ensure that the whale poachers do not depart from Japan.
“Prime Minister Turnbull has a duty to ensure that the dire matter of Japan’s whale poaching operations is at the top of the agenda when he visits Japan in December,” said Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director, Jeff Hansen.
“It must be made clear to Japan that whaling in the Australian Whale Sanctuary is a criminal act and that Australia has the international responsibility to intervene and arrest criminals operating in our waters,” he continued.
The Sea Shepherd said that its ship Steve Irwin, currently docked in Melbourne, Australia, has been undergoing preparations for the organization’s second campaign to target illegal toothfish operators in the Southern Ocean.
“We are ready to find, document, report on and where possible intervene against poaching operations that threaten the precious balance of life in the Southern Ocean; whatever form those poachers might take, whatever life they threaten,” said Cornelissen.
World Maritime News Staff; Image: Sea Shepherd