The Japanese Whaling Processing ship (Nisshin Maru) has just been located in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sea Shepherd reported this morning that they had filmed the vessel from their helicopter, and that a whale was part-processed on the main deck.
It raises some interesting questions. The Japanese did lose their court battle with Australia and New Zealand in the International Court of Justice in 2014. After the loss, in which Japan was told it’s program lacked Scientific merit and was deemed illegal, they came back with a new “so-called” Research program with 333 Whales per year instead of the previous 1,000. Which is a farce really. It was soundly rejected by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 2015 as still not meeting Scientific Standards, however Japan is, if nothing else, persistent.
Interestingly, the Japanese Prime Minister is in Australia for talks with the Australian Government today, so I’d hope that the Australian Prime Minister (I lose track who it is these days with their revolving door) will put his counterpart in a choke hold until he agrees to stop whaling. Not that I’ll be holding my breath.
A challenge with the renewed program is Japan needs little time to get their whales. In 2010 while I was prisoner aboard the Shonan Maru #2, their First Officer claimed they average about 10 whales per day. Which meant they needed around 3 months to get their quota of 1,000. Today however, with a quota of 333, they really need little more than a month whaling to achieve this. By my calculations, they’d already be around 250 whales caught, having arrived in the whale sanctuary around Xmas day.
It remains to be seen as well what will happen if Sea Shepherd ships do in fact find the Nisshin Maru. Two years ago, Sea Shepherd was forced to pay the Japanese Whalers $2.5m compensation, and instructed to not disrupt the whaling program. In my mind this was most unfair. Japan had lost in court and their whaling program was declared illegal by the highest court in the world. No one else was in Antarctica to try and stop the whaling.
Nevertheless, aggressive action in the coming weeks by Sea Shepherd would likely be judged a further breach of the court injunction, which may see more funds going to subsidize Japan’s whaling. No one else is in Antarctica though. New Zealand and Australia may work diplomatic channels but Japan remains indifferent to this. They are playing a long game on whaling and seem impervious to outside influence. Which is a shame really.
Whatever happens, Japan’s continued whaling defies public opinion, it defies the International Court Of Justice, and it defies logic. There is little to be gained from it. Japan is rich and whale products today are barely consumed by the public. Tacky infomercials at 1am on public broadcasters has done little to stem dropping demand and prices. I do wonder why in fact Japan continues.