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In July, Japan resumed commercial whaling for the first time in 31 years. While whaling in all forms is horrible, this could actually be a step in the right direction for Japan. Although Japan has officially left the International Whaling Commission (IWC) after 6 months notice, the transition may result in fewer whale deaths each year.
In 1988, Japan switched to “research whaling” after commercial whaling was banned by the IWC. Even though Japanese whaling boats were pulling in hundreds of whales each year, it was classified under “research” activities. The meat from these “research” whales was sold in the markets of Japan. With that obvious link to commercialism, the “research whaling” faced intense criticism for years. Additionally, it was losing money for the Japanese government.
Most of this “research whaling” took place in Antarctic waters which are a hotspot of biodiversity for whales. It is a region that is absolutely critical to the success of global whale populations.
With the switch to commercial whaling, Japan will be limiting it’s harvest to 227 whales this year and all will be harvested in Japanese waters. Although it is still horrible to kill whales under any circumstances, the new location and decreased number of captured whales may help the overall global whale population, but only time will tell. In the meantime, pressuring for the end of all commercial whaling is all that we can do.