During the 20th century alone, more than 1.4 million whales have been killed. In the process, commercial whaling systematically depleted whale population after whale population. Estimates indicate that the impacts of previous commercial whaling led to the reduction of whale populations, leaving species such as the Humpback Whale down to 10%, the Blue Whale down to less than 4% from "pre-exploitation numbers", the Gray Whale down to 12%, the Right Whale down to 6%. All of these whales are among at least 7 whale species listed as Endangered. These numbers may be shocking, but also disturbing is the fact that scientists from outside of Japan have purchased whale meats from Japanese markets to find DNA results indicating that Humpback, Blue, and Sei whale meats are still being sold.
Signed in the 1940s, forming the International Whaling Commission, the Convention on Whaling, is a gentleman's agreement without provisions for enforcement. Of the great whales, only the Antarctic Minkes were spared and only as a result of the worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling coming into force in 1986. Now more than a decade after enactment of the moratorium, Japan and Norway continue their whaling programs which directly undermine this cornerstone international conservation decision.
Since 1987, Japan has been conducting it's whaling under the guise of "scientific whaling". And yet, after criticisms of this practice comes the statement: "This whole thing must be seen from the larger perspective of imposing another set of values on a culture," said Joji Morishita, deputy director of the far seas division at the Fisheries Agency of Japan. "Beef is sacred to many people in India, yet they don't ask the United States to stop eating beef," he said. "This is the way we view whaling." In fact, only after World War II, when food sources ran short did the Japanese commercial whaling industry begin providing whale meat. Was that for "science" or overnight "culture"?
Japan has used foreign aid to encourage developing nations to join the IWC and vote in the country's favor. *** Focusing on small-island developing states with marine-focused economies and marine-focused cultures, recent inductees to the commission include St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica (2009 update on Dominica), Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Additional nations which voted along with Japan included Republic Of Guinea, Denmark, China, Korea, Norway, and Panama. When the vote came up for the proposed sanctuaries, all of these countries have sided with Japan on whaling issues, thereby defeating the proposals.
Despite the definition of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, since the 1988 season (which includes the 1987-88 Antarctic season), over 20,000 minke whales have been killed as part of Japan's "scientific whaling" program. Around 3,000-4,000 metric tons (roughly 8.5 million pounds) of whale meat sold in Japan annually are a by-product of these research missions. The Whale and Conservation Society (WDCS) reports that since 1986 IWC moratorium on whaling, in 20 years (through 2006) Japan, Norway, and Iceland, have slaughtered over 25,000 whales (click here to view WDCS video).
DNA samplings of whale meat sold in the Japanese markets have indicated that along with the "unprotected" Minke and dolphin (sold as whale meat), other "protected" species including Bryde's, Fin, Gray, Humpback, Sei, and Sperm Whale, were found. Without any enforcement, and a lack of witnesses out at sea, there is no regulation or protection. At the 55th meeting (summer 2003) of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), WDCS, alongside the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have confirmed that despite emotional claims that Japan needs more whale meat, whale and dolphin meat is being sold in pet food in Japan.
Japan has added the Fin, Sei, Sperm whale & Bryde's whales to their list of whales killed annually under the guise of "Scientific Research". Once hunted to a point of depletion, being unviable commercially, the Sperm Whale is currently under protection. In recent literature on this particular species, the researchers stated that there was uncertainty that the Sperm Whale as a species would ever recover from the mass whaling that occurred nearly a century ago. In mid-November 2007, the Japanese whaling fleet departed for Antarctica with intension to kill 50 Humpback whales in their quotas. (Please click here for 2009 update.)
Japan's claim that the purpose for their "scientific research" is to calculate how much fish the whales eat. They claim that they need to gauge the impact of these whales competing against their own fishing fleets. However, a recent paper published by the US Department of Commerce concluded that "hunting whales is unlikely to provide increased catch of fish species because of the complexity of ecosystem interactions".
In August (2003) Iceland announced that it would resume commercial whaling as part of a whaling programme that they are describing as 'scientific'."