Japan’s announcement that they are to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is being cautiously welcomed by most observers, but there are differing opinions on their motives.
Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd is very positive about the news. His organisation has relentlessly battled against Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean for 16 years (between 2005 and 2017) and he feels the news of Japan’s withdrawal from the IWC is a victory for Sea Shepherd and for the whales.
He argues that Japan leaving the IWC will prevent them from continuing to claim their illegal commercial whaling operation is for scientific research purposes, ending whaling in the Southern Hemisphere, and will allow the IWC’s plans for a Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to be established.
In effect, like Iceland, Denmark and Norway, Japan will only be able to hunt whales in their own waters.
Not everyone shares Paul Watson’s enthusiasm.
OceansAsia Director Of Operations and former Sea Shepherd Asia Director Gary Stokes has a different view.
Japan have stated they will hunt whales their own waters and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone; the waters up to 200 miles from their coast) however he does not believe they will stop there, especially as Fukushima continues to pump radioactive water into their local waters.
Gary predicts we will see many pro-whaling nations also leave the IWC. He believes Japan will buy the rights to whale in these countries waters and EEZ, effectively allowing whales to be hunted legally around the world, for commercial profit, by exploiting a loophole in CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) directives, which prevent the international trade of endangered species.
There are rumours circulating from Timor-Leste and Mauritius among others, suggesting Japan has been courting their agreement to hunt whales in their waters in return for funding.
Only time will tell the effect of japan leaving the IWC. Until then we have no way of knowing if this is a good or bad thing and what it can result in for whales throughout the world.
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