The International Whaling Commission (IWC) prevents most of the world from conducting any whaling activities, which is the process of hunting and killing wild whales for commercial motives including, but not limited to, selling the resulting whale meat for a profit. But not everyone plays by these rules.
Japan, for example, has long exploited a gray area in the IWC’s terms and conditions in which it would permit whaling ships to hunt and kill wild whales for the sake of “scientific research.” After many failed attempts to sway the IWC to allow sustainable commercial whaling efforts, Japan ultimately left the agreement to pursue its whaling endeavors as it saw fit.
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It now seems that Japan is poised to launch a fleet of commercial whaling ships as early as this week. It would be the first time in 30 years that Japan has deployed a large-scale commercial whaling fleet, and as you might come to expect, the decision is being met with loads of outrage on a global scale.
Japan’s withdrawal from the IWC formally takes effect on Monday, July 1st, allowing whaling ships to pursue their interests as long as the activities are contained within Japan’s 12-mile stretch of territorial water. With that in mind, Japanese whaling ships won’t be able to (legally) conduct whaling activities anywhere else in the world.
Under the IWC agreement, Japan could conduct whaling activities all around the world, as long as it was related to ‘scientific research.’ Unfortunately, the whaling industry’s true motives were more evident than Japan led on, as much of the whale meat that resulted from this so-called ‘scientific research’ was later sold in Japan as food.
In addition to the senseless animal cruelty that results from Japan’s whaling efforts, another primary concern has to do with marine species conservation. Japan’s whaling ships typically target Bryde’s whales, minke whales, and sei whales – one of which is listed as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List, albeit with an increasing population trend.
While conservationists aren’t expecting significant population declines as a direct result of Japan’s commercial whaling sector, they do fear that the nation’s relentlessness in this department could result in a cascade of problems down the line, such as other nations following suit. With that in mind, something needs to be done to protect the whales.