Japan’s attempts to restart its whaling industry in the Southern Ocean faced a setback on Monday after experts from the International Whaling Committee (IWC) said the country's latest plans offered no practical reason for the proposed slaughter.
Japan wants authorization to slaughter 330 minke whales a year for the next 12 years, for which it submitted a revised whaling plan, known as Newrep-A, to the IWC, claiming it needed to slaughter the whales for two scientific objectives: to understand the Antarctic marine ecosystem and to learn the whales’ population size required for a return to sustainable commercial hunting.
However, the commission said the proposal lacked scientific justification. "The current proposal does not demonstrate the need for lethal sampling," the IWC expert panel said, the Guardian reported. “Therefore the current proposal does not demonstrate the need for lethal sampling to achieve those objectives.”
Japan has been seeking authorization for whaling after operations were halted due to an order by the international court of justice in The Hague last year. The U.N. court ruling -- which said that the hunts served no legitimate scientific purpose -- was in response to a legal challenge from Australia, which said that Japan was using scientific exemption as a cover to continue commercial whaling. Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, but Japan had continued its hunts under an exemption for scientific research purposes.
Under the ban on commercial whaling, Japan is allowed to sell meat it gains from its "scientific" hunts, though demand for whale meat has shrunk dramatically in recent years, the Guardian reported.
Scientists from other nations including Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the U.S. have argued that non-lethal scientific research can be just as fruitful as ones that call for animal slaughter. Anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd also strongly condemned a non-lethal whaling expedition by Japan in January as “farcical,” claiming that Tokyo intended to continue killing whales. "The government of Japan has already announced their plans to resume the killing of whales in 2015/2016, despite condemnation from the highest court in the world, the International Court of Justice," the group said in a statement at the time.