Will whales be hunted and killed by whole fleets soon, like 200 years ago?
Japanese government applies to the IWC
The Japanese government has submitted an application to the International Whaling Commission to lift the ban on commercial whaling. Since 1985, the international prohibition of commercial whaling applies, which is intended to sustainably preserve the various species of whales. With this project, Japan could find itself in a conflict-ridden debate with countries such as Australia and some European states, which consistently reject a lifting of the current ban.
Yet the Japanese government defends the plans in the context of Japanese culture. It increasingly relies on the cultural heritage of its own country and leads the whale hunting and the consumption of meat as an ancient Japanese tradition against the ban.
The International Whaling Commission - A protection organization with international reach
The International Whaling Commission, short IWC, was founded in Washington in 1946, at the initiative of many different states, and is based in Impington, near Cambridge, in the United Kingdom. Their main goal is to sustainably protect the worldwide biodiversity of whales and thereby facilitate the development of a globally organized whaling industry.
An integral part of the IWC's work is the monitoring of the 1986 ban on the commercial whaling of certain species of whales. The measures include catch quotas to prevent overfishing, as well as the prohibition of certain fishing methods, such as harpoon hunting: "Any nation that signs the International Convention on Whaling can become a member of the IWC. Each member state, of which there are currently 89, appoints a representative who is often supported by various experts and consultants. These representatives elect a chairman and a deputy chairman from their ranks whose terms of office are generally limited to three years "(IFAW, 2017).
The role of the Japanese government in the IWC and its new demands
In the course of the ratification of the ban, the Japanese government has initiated a program that circumvents the ban on the basis of scientific purposes: "The meat of the whales allegedly killed for scientific purposes is then sold to distributors or given to schools and hospitals free of charge or very cheaply as part of marketing campaigns to promote whale meat consumption" (IFAW, 2017).
The Japanese whaling fleet usually fans out twice a year. In November, the Japanese whaling ships move mainly in the Antarctic Sea to hunt down so-called minke whales. For the most part, the Antarctic Sea is a whale sanctuary, making Japan's position highly questionable regarding international agreements.
The Japanese government and its actions on an international level have often been the subject of considerable criticism in the past. Already in 2014, the Japanese government's scientific program was banned by the International Court of Justice. The judgment determined that the program did not provide any indication of a scientific background and should therefore be terminated immediately. Following the judgment of the International Court of Justice, the program has been adapted by the Japanese government and reissued. The current application to the IWC essentially aims at easing the current restrictions on commercial whaling so they no longer operate in a legal gray area and are able to defend themselves against international criticism.
In the past, it has increasingly happened that individual states have set themselves above international covenants and agreements. In recent years in particular, an increase of independent initiatives on the part of governments around the globe has been observed. Either in disregard of multilateral agreements for the protection of the environment or economic policies that are taken solely for the protectionism of the national economy.
The Japanese government has shown with its previous practices, regarding the whaling in the past, that it has little interest in achieving international environmental protection goals. Such a stance must no longer be tolerated in the future and needs appropriate countermeasures if the international community wants to fulfill its responsibility for common interests.