Feb 3, 2011
Japan is the first nation to slaughter whales in 2011, hunting in the protected Southern Ocean.
Activists witnessed at least one whale kill on Jan. 25 in the pristine Southern Ocean – comprised of the Great Southern Ocean, the Antarctic Ocean and the South Polar Ocean – which is a designated whale sanctuary. The kill was carried out by Japanese whalers whose quota earmarks the slaughter of more than 1,000 whales in 2011. Besides targeting as many as 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales, this will also be the third season where 50 humpbacks remain on Japan’s target list, following the country’s failure to lift the international ban on commercial whaling.
Only 40% of whales harpooned in Japanese hunts die within 10 seconds of being struck, meaning that, this year, approximately 600 whales will suffer from horrific wounds for extended periods of time – some for longer than an hour – before they die.
WSPA’s Marine Mammal Program Manager, Joanna Toole said: “It defies all logic that this cruel slaughter still continues in the midst of intense international condemnation and with the appetite for whale meat at an all time low. Commercial whaling causes immense suffering no matter where it takes place or which species are targeted. This is an unnecessary and archaic industry that should be consigned to the history books.”
While Japan has embarked on its 2011 hunting season in the Southern Ocean, the other whaling nations of Norway and Iceland have also been making preparations for the unnecessary slaughter of more than 1,300 whales.
Norway has revealed that the 2011 whaling quota for the season, which traditionally starts in April, has been set at 1,286 minke whales – the same as in 2010. If they indeed kill that number of whales, it will represent the largest commercial whale hunt in the world.
However, in recent years – due to a failing market for whale meat products – Norwegian hunters have only taken approximately one third of their self-allocated quota, which WSPA and other organizations see as a clear indication of a dying industry.
In a separate development, U.S. government officials have criticized Iceland’s resumption of its trade in fin whale products, after the nation exported more than 800 tons of whale products last year, including meat from endangered fin whales. Iceland currently has a rolling annual quota for 100 minke whales and 150 fin whales.
This year, WSPA will continue to push for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to seriously address the fundamental welfare problems of whaling. Alongside the UK government, we are organizing a workshop on whale welfare and ethics for academics and policy makers to be held on Mar.22 and 23 at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK.
At last year’s IWC annual meeting, the UK’s proposal for this workshop was met with overwhelming support from other countries, including Belgium, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Costa Rica, India and Brazil.
International experts in animal welfare and ethics will attend the workshop and engage in discussion and analysis of the information presented. Any agreed recommendations from the workshop will go into a report that will provide the IWC with an insight into current international thinking on animal welfare science and management, as well as academic viewpoints on animal ethics. WSPA hopes this will allow the IWC to make progressive science-based decisions on whaling and other whale welfare issues in the future.