Japan’s controversial plans to research whales by killing them has been rejected by an international scientific body – but that doesn’t mean they won’t go ahead.
A meeting of the scientific committee for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) found that Japan still has no convincing explanation as to why it needs to kill the mammals in order to conduct its research.
Experts said that “the current proposal does not demonstrate the need for lethal sampling” in order for Japan to achieve its stated scientific objectives.
Yet the country has already rejected the decision, saying that it will go ahead with plans to kill almost 4,000 minke whales in the next 12 years as submitted to the IWC in November last year.
Joji Morishita, Japan’s envoy to the IWC, said his nation was open to unspecified “revisions” to their plan after Monday’s decision from a panel of experts – only part of the full scientific committee.
He added that Japan would provide additional data to try and convince the full committee to come to a different conclusion when it meets in May, but warned that it will not be easy.
“The scientific committee is more political than the panel,” Morishita said. “I won't be surprised if we face some countries that oppose our plans not because of science.”
Morishita added that “we hope to work toward a resumption [of research whaling] at the end of the year”.
Commercial whaling was banned by the whaling commission in 1986, but Japan has continued to kill whales under an exemption for scientific research.
The International Court of Justice ruled last year that the hunts were not truly scientific, prompting Japan to issue a revised plan which involved catching 333 minke whales (down from 1,035) each year between 2015 and 2027.
Japan's actual catch has fallen in recent years in part because of declining domestic demand for whale meat, while the expenditure of large amounts of tax money on sustaining operations has proved controversial. The catch has also been affected by protests from the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd.
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