The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) grants permits to take whales to the body who wishes to research whales, with the agreement of the contracting government of the convention which the body belongs to. As this treaty was written in 1946 when the whaling industry was in its peak, the "research" in the text referred to the voluntary scientific research in concurrent to the whaling activities that were taking place. As a result, nobody suspected that this treaty was going to be used as a loophole for taking whales for commercial purposes.
In 1986, the moratorium came into effect. The Japanese government took an advantage of this method, and launched a whaling operation that did not require the international agreement. 20 years have now passed since then- Japan has been investing 500million yen of taxpayers money every year to whalingever since, capturing about 8000 large type whales from the Antarctic and the Northwestern Pacific since year 2000 alone, and selling whale meat on the market as research "by-products". Furthermore, this June in Ulsan, at the scientific committee of the International Whaling Convention (IWC) Japan will propose its renewed project, the JARPA II, and no matter what the outcome of the discussions at the scientific committee or at the convention will be, Japan can continue to pursue its whaling without other countries.
The research plan is to be submitted to the IWC secretariat by 60 days before the convention starts, though the content of the proposal is confidential until then.
On the other hand, the Associated Press on April 12th reported that the research plan is to increase the catch quota for minke whales, and humpback whales and sei whales to be newly added to the quota (start from ten each and increase the catch number gradually from there).
Humpback and sei whale stocks were exploited heavily along with the blue whales during the peak of the whaling history, and the hunting of the two species were banned well before the moratorium (humpback whales in 1938 and sei whales in 1976) was placed. Even if the numbers are slowly increasing compared to then, it can be said that the populations are still in the progress of recovering.
Also, especially with regards to the humpback whales in Australia, not only the animals are making a successful attraction for the whale-watching industry, they are loved by the people. Capturing these whales is no different from foreign hunters coming into Japan and shooting red-crowned cranes telling us that it is ok because the hunt does not affect the crane population. People of Australia are in fact appalled and saddened by Japan's new research proposal.
It is also a big problem that such a plan is being made without the majority of Japanese people knowing about it. The resistance people feel in reaction to other countries telling Japan not to eat whale meat is somewhat understandable.
However, since the catch quota for the scientific whaling is growing every year and the by-catch whale meat from fixed nets is also increasing the supply, the whale stock has become stagnant that now the government has to host special events in an attempt to expand and promote whale market. So, we do not even have to go travel far and catch whales in order to eat whale meat.
A grey whale baby wandered into Tokyo Bay early last month, and died tangled in the fixed net. It triggered a lot of attention and interest from the Japanese public, and we heard that telephone calls upset about the sudden turn of event into tragedy inundated the Fisheries Agency. It is not an exaggeration that there are more and more people who rather watch whales swim peacefully than to eat them. Isn't it our responsibility now then, to do something and stop this untenable whaling project?