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(Yarmouth Port, MA – December 1, 2015) – Japan’s whaling fleet left the harbor this morning on a mission to kill 333 minke whales in the name of science despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that this practice is illegal. Following this landmark ruling in March 2014, Japan paused its Southern Ocean whaling for one year and then set out again today. The actual whale killing and on-board processing will begin in several weeks.

“We respectfully urge Japan to leave its harpoons behind and continue important, non-lethal whale research, which gathers far more valuable data from studying live whales than dead ones, said Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Program Director for International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “ Governments worldwide should not stand idly by and allow the needless slaughter of Antarctic whales. The U.S. already issued a statement this week saying that they are ‘disappointed’ with Japan’s decision to resume whaling.”

A whale and a calf being loaded aboard a factory ship, the Nisshin Maru. The sign above the slipway reads, "Legal research under the ICRW". Australia released this photo to challenge that claim. (Photo Credit: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service)

A whale and a calf being loaded aboard a factory ship, the Nisshin Maru. The sign above the slipway reads, “Legal research under the ICRW”. Australia released this photo to challenge that claim. (Photo Credit: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service)

The ICJ judgment was strongly backed by the conservation body for whales, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which recommended that the Japanese government should issue no further permits to kill whales before the IWC has a chance to examine Japan’s proposal at its next full meeting in Slovenia in September 2016.

IFAW has long encouraged Japan to turn to benign research that does not involve killing whales. This generates results of far greater importance to the international community than the limited research from dead whales. IFAW welcomed Japan’s initial announcement that it would abide by the ICJ ruling, as well as its decision to pursue non-lethal whale research last season.

In November 2014, the Japanese government revealed details of its new Southern Ocean whaling proposal, called NEWREP-A, with the aim of harpooning 333 minke whales in the coming season and almost 4,000 whales in total over the next 12 years in an expanded Antarctic killing zone.

An expert panel of scientists which examined the new whaling proposal in February 2015 concluded that the case for killing whales had not been made, and that certain prior analyses were needed. At its meeting in June 2015 the IWC’s Scientific Committee found that the necessary work had not been carried out or was incomplete.

Notes

In February 2013, IFAW launched a report, “The Economics of Japanese Whaling,” which showed that the failing whaling industry in Japan is propped up by millions of dollars a year in public money. Annual subsidies average around 782 million yen (US $9.78m).

The findings demonstrate that while whaling is unprofitable and catering to an increasingly shrinking and ageing market, whale watching is, by contrast, a growth industry.

Whale watching currently generates around US$2.1 billion annually for coastal communities across the world. In Japan alone, whale watching generated around US$22 million in 2008. There are currently about 30 whale watching operators working from a dozen locations around the Japanese coast.

Despite a global ban on commercial whaling, Japan continued to hunt whales under the loophole of ‘scientific whaling,’ yet while the meat is put on sale in restaurants and supermarkets; little science has been produced from the slaughter of these animals.

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