Japan has just announced that it will leave the International Whaling Committee on 30 June 2019 and resume commercial whaling the following day in Japanese territorial waters.
This is surprising in light of the diminishing consumption of whale meat in Japan. Consumption is down to approx. 5,000 tonnes a year, down from 200,000 tonnes in the 1960s. The majority of the Japanese never or rarely eat whale meat.
The Japanese authorities have also said that they will no longer pursue whaling in the Antarctic or other southern climes, which is of course a good thing.
The Japanese decision could have an effect on whether the Icelandic government allows fin whaling to continue next year. The five-year licence to Kristjan Loftsson and his company Hvalur ran out last September and the Icelandic government has said it will commission a study into whether whaling is viable on commercial, environmental and social aspects of whaling before deciding whether to grant Loftsson a licence once more.
Japan’s decision to resume commercial whaling must surely have an effect on the commercial viability of Loftsson’s whaling as he sends all the Icelandic whale meat to Japan, via a roundabout route. If Japan is catching its own whales (which few of the Japanese will eat), it’s unlikely that they will want whale meat from Iceland as well. This might also factor into the Icelandic government’s report, as it makes no sense for Iceland to suffer the political wrath of anti-whaling countries if a market cannot be found for the meat.
In 2017, the Japanese authorities discarded Icelandic whale meat because their chemical analyses revealed that it was not fit for human consumption. Loftsson blamed the technology used, and hopes it will work out better this year. But whether it will or not is unknown – and Loftsson is unlikely to publicize a refusal by the Japanese to accept the meat.
It turns out that I’m not the only one who thinks that Japan’s decision will make it harder to sell whale meat from Iceland, as Arni Finnsson from the Iceland Nature Conservation Association has just been reported (in Icelandic) as saying something very similar.
Update: I contacted Nanami Kurasawa from the Japanese group IKAN to try and find out more about the proposed Japanese commercial whaling, Among other things, she said that the sellers of whale meat would probably NOT be opposed to more meat from Iceland as the stopping “research whaling” in the Antarctic and Southern Hemisphere would mean that Japan would have to give up 333 minke whales from the Antarctica, 134 sei whales and 43 minke whales from the North West Pacific. They are worried about a reduction in distribution.
Details of their commercial whaling are till to be announced. She also said that the Japanese government had relaxed rules on chemical analysis – which Loftsson is probably pleased about.
Anyone want an article on this issue?