Whaling ships set sail as Japan resumes commercial hunts

Saul Bowman
July 2, 2019

A crane lifted them and slowly placed them on the back of a truck to be taken to a portside factory for processing.

After the whale was unloaded from the truck, workers measured it and poured sake on the Minke's body for a purifying ritual.

Whaling has long proved a rare diplomatic flashpoint for Japan, which says the practice is part of the country's tradition and should not be subject to global interference.

The Fisheries Agency said the catch quota through the end of this year was set at 227 whales, fewer than the 333 Japan hunted in the Antarctic in recent years.

After a ban was imposed in 1986, Japan began whaling for "scientific research" a year after.

Surveys by Japanese and South Korean fisheries agencies have estimated their numbers at about 1,500, Cooke said in an interview.

While the resumption of commercial whaling is condemned by many conservation groups, others see it as a face-saving way to let the government's embattled and expensive whaling program gradually succumb to changing times and tastes.

"I'm a bit nervous but happy that we can start whaling", 23-year-old Hideki Abe, a whaler from the Miyagi region in northern Japan, told AFP before leaving from Kushiro. As has been noted in the IWC's official website, the the "pause", referred to as the commercial whaling moratorium, remains in place today.


The IWC declined Japan's proposal to resume commercial whaling of abundant species last September.

The preparations to resume the hunts were a day ahead of Japan's first commercial whaling operation in more than three decades (top right). "People have hunted whales for more than 400 years in my home town". In the years since the Asian nation claimed all whaling activities were for research purposes. Various beach front networks in Japan have surely chased whales for a considerable length of time yet utilization possibly wound up across the board after World War Two when other food was not easily available.

"Maybe now that commercial whaling is going to restart, it'll be cheaper and we can get our hands on it more easily". By afternoon, one ship had returned with a roughly 8m-long minke whale. The quota includes 52 minke wales, as well as 150 Bryde's whales and 25 sei whales.

By 5pm, they had their first catch, according to activists following them. The boats have come from different parts of the country, including Taiji, an area known for dolphin hunts.

Whale meat caught further off the coast will be frozen and distributed for wider consumption.

But some experts say Japan's move might be a blessing in disguise for some whales, because it will mean that Japan will stop hunting whales in the Southern Ocean, the Atlantic and other sensitive locations. The association is hopeful that whale meat will once again be a part of the Japanese diet.

However, critics of the programme say it was simply a cover and the meat ended up being sold to restaurants anyway.

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