IWDG condemn Japanese “scientific” whaling

21st Nov 2007 As the Japanese government embark on a new programme of “scientific” whaling the IWDG condemns this “research” programme as unacceptable and calls for it to be suspended immediately.

Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoise) are mobile species and are not under the sole ownership or responsibility of any single state. These species do not respect national boundaries and most populations occur in more than one country's territorial waters. In some cases, such as humpback whales, they migrate through many countries territorial waters from breeding grounds in warm, tropical waters to rich feeding grounds at high latitudes.

International Conventions and Committees have been established throughout the world in an attempt to manage migratory populations through consensus and agreement. The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling implemented by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is the competent convention for managing whaling.

Under the lethal component of the programme in 2006/07, 505 Antarctic minke whales and 3 fin whales were caught. Japan also has a North Pacific programme under which a total of 195 common minke, 50 Bryde's, 100 sei and 6 sperm whales were caught in 2006. In 2007/08, under a project called JARPA II it is the Government of Japan's intention to kill up to 935 Antarctic minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary for “scientific purposes”

© Greenpeace

The issue of special permit whaling is controversial within the IWC and, as in previous years, strong statements were made both for and against special permit whaling at the last IWC meeting. The IWC passed a Resolution asking Japan to refrain from issuing a permit for JARPA II by 40 votes in favour, 2 votes against and 1 abstention; 27 countries decided not to participate in the vote as they believed that the submission of the proposal was not conducive to building bridges within the Commission. Ireland, who were represented by John Fitzgerald of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, voted in favour of the Resolution.

This Resolution “expressed deep concern at continuing lethal research within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and has also recommended that scientific research involving the killing of cetaceans should only be permitted where critically important research needs are addressed”. The Resolution also “noted that none of the goals of JARPA 1 had been reached, and that the results of the JARPA 1 programme are not required for management under the RMP (Revised Management Plan)”. They were “concerned that fin whales in the Southern Hemisphere are currently classified as endangered, and that humpback whales in the JARPA II research area may include individuals from depleted breeding populations over-wintering in the waters of certain Pacific Islands” and “called upon the Government of Japan to suspend indefinitely the lethal aspects of JARPA II conducted within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary”.

© Greenpeace

The IWC Scientific Committee reviews research programmes and makes recommendations on priority areas for research, methodology, analysis etc. The Scientific Committee is comprised of up to 200 of the world's leading whale biologists, many of which are nominated by member governments. There was disagreement within the Scientific Committee over the value of the research proposed under JARPA II. Some Committee members stated that JARPA I had contributed greatly to the biological knowledge of Antarctic minke whales and preserving the continuity of the research through JARPA II was of great importance. Others stressed its significance in ecosystem management and in providing a framework for multi-species modelling of the Antarct