First of all, let’s start the discussion on why we need whales and other large cetaceans in the oceans:
Just like the presence of large mammals like elephants and rhinos shows the abundance of food and sustainability of current practices in land ecosystems, the presence of large cetaceans ensures the health and prosperity of the world’s oceans. Thanks to these deep divers, a lot of mineral-rich cold water reaches the surface, that thereby ensures the survival of plant plankton, the greatest source of oxygen in the world. That also creates vertical currents of water thereby regulating oceanic temperatures. Furthermore, their skeletons are humongous and extremely rich in carbon, that when they die, sinks to the bottom of the ocean carrying a lot of carbon with it down there, away from the atmosphere.
Like most niche apex predators such as sharks, lions, and tigers, their survival helps the survival of their prey, that would otherwise die of population explosion.
Their numbers have already been irretrievably low, with an estimate suggesting that whale numbers would not reach half of the pre-whaling figure by 2100, despite conservation efforts.
In the midst of all this, Japan, which was part of IWC (International Whaling Commission), the primary whaling prevention body, has decided to restart commercial whaling from July 2019.
For 50 years now, whaling has still been practiced by Japan, on the pretext of ‘scientific research.’
Despite IWC’s banning of commercial whaling in 1986, Japan used ‘scientific research’ as a cover story to sell the meat of whales such as minke whales, consumption of which has been a tradition of the island country.
After the announcement on Wednesday, several conservationists from many countries have threatened dire consequences.
Japan through its spokesperson, Yoshihide Suga, has accused IWC of not fulfilling one of its initial goals, such as sustainable commercial whaling; instead, it’s concentrating only on increasing the whale numbers.
It has, though, said that it would restrict its hunting to territorial waters and economic zones and not go on its controversial Antarctic expedition.
Ironically, despite the hike in consumption after World War II, due to easy availability and a shortage of other meats, whale meats (from the Asahi) now make up only 0.1 percent of Japan’s meat consumption.
Australia’s Foreign and Environment ministers, Marise Payne and Melissa Price, have issued a joint statement stating they were massively disappointed.
Greenpeace Japan cited that the government would face heavy criticism as G20 summit is going to be hosted in their country if it moved on with this decision.
The current IWC ban had initially agreed to create a commercially viable and smaller catch quota, that would let the numbers rise, though later it banned whaling.
Japan had been masking commercial whaling as scientific research for years under a special exception rule of the IWC.
Therefore, whaling nations like Norway, Iceland, and Japan have always cited their countries’ traditions while protesting said ban.
Despite most species being endangered almost beyond hope nowadays, many whale species like the minke, which is Japan’s primary target, have significantly thrived above the endangered quota, thanks to IWC’s ban.
Japan will still be under scrutiny from many organizations like the UN, which has the Convention on the Law of the Sea. It can, though, join NAMMCO, the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, that was born when Norway, Faeroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland were being thwarted by the IWC again and again.
Japan has, for the last 30 years, caught around 200-1200 whales each year under the pretext of monitoring stocks and investigating which species had recovered from the endangered status.
Even until September, in the IWC convention in Brazil, Japan tried to secure a quota for sustainable commercial whaling and promised to set up a committee for sustainable whaling for “abundant whale stocks/species.”
Since this last thwarting, there’s been talk of Japan leaving.
The future is dark my friends, mainly because this move may give an incentive to other pro-whaling IWC members to merely quit and hunt unless somebody steps up to the plate.
Image credits: Sergio Lacueva
This article was originally sourced from here.