Japan's Scientific Whaling Program—Same Plan, Different Name

In November, Japan submitted its plans for a resumption of whaling in the Southern Ocean to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), despite the March 2014 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Japan’s scientific whaling there is not in compliance with the IWC’s treaty (see Spring 2014 AWI Quarterly). The plan, called a “New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean” or NEWREP-A, is an attempt to repackage its old programs into something that it hopes will be more palatable to the IWC Scientific Committee—and the world at large.

The NEWREP-A includes plans to slaughter 333 minke whales a year to determine what they eat, as part of an “investigation of the structure and dynamics of the Antarctic marine ecosystem through building ecosystem models.” Japan and its allies have long argued that whales compete with other animals, including humans, for food and should be culled to enhance our food security. Ironically, Japan is now suggesting that minke whales are competing with other larger whales for food, presumably to eventually justify their routine killing to maintain “ecosystem balance.”

Unfortunately, the IWC cannot prevent Japan’s whaling and cannot ignore NEWREP-A. An IWC Scientific Committee Expert Workshop is planned for mid-February in Tokyo to review the new program. Unless the outcome of the review is a resounding condemnation of the scientific validity of the program, we fear the review will legitimize NEWREP-A, which would start in late 2015, and could ultimately render the historic ICJ decision worthless.