On Sunday 30th June, Japan will be leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC). A concerning decision which will see them conducting commercial whaling within its 200-mile Exclusive Zone and coastal waters.
In 1982 an international ban on commercial whaling was agreed by the IWC which applies to territorial waters as well as the high seas. The ban put in place is one of the world’s most meaningful conservation and welfare measures and in the past has saved several species of whale from extinction. It has also enabled the recovery of several whale populations after decades of catastrophic and human driven decline. However, several populations still remain depleted or endangered.
As well as whaling, today there are a large number of threat facing whales and dolphins, many of which are due to human activity including bycatch, ship strike, chemical, litter and noise pollution. All of these will have an impact on cetaceans and other marine animals for years to come. Therefore, we must continue to make a huge effort globally to continue doing all we can to protect these animals and ensure the survival of the world’s ocean giants.
The decision to leave the IWC, made by the Japanese Government, shows neglect for their duty of care and co-operation in the management of living marine resources. This care is required by both the customary international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which outlines the responsibilities and rights of nations regarding their use of the world’s oceans.
The consumption of whale meat in Japan declined by almost 99% between 1962 and 2017, during which time less than 4000 tones was eaten, according to data published by the Japanese government. This demonstrates that their resumption of commercial whaling is not to meet public demand, locally or elsewhere in the world.
Whaling is a brutal practice that has no place in modern day society, there is no humane way to kill whales at sea, so these ocean giants often die slowly and in agony from a whaler’s deadly harpoon.
This weekend as the G20 summit is held in Osaka, Japan, peaceful protests will be taking place in cities across the world, including London and Edinburgh which will reflect an overwhelming global outcry at Japan’s decision to leave the IWC and will demonstrate public opinion that commercial whaling is unnecessary, inhumane and archaic.
Whales are some of the most intelligent and awe-inspiring animals on the planet. They serve great importance to the health of our seas and contribute to important ecosystems in the marine environment. We must continue to collaborate on an international level to continue protecting them – we have a global responsibility that must not be threatened by one single country acting selfishly and alone.