Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Japan Begins Commercial Whaling for First Time in 30+ Years

Popular
Japan Begins Commercial Whaling for First Time in 30+ Years
A sei whale, considered endangered by the IUCN; sei are one of three species that will be hunted commercially in Japan starting today. Gerard Soury / Getty Images

Commercial whaling ships set sail from Japan Monday for the first time in more than 30 years, The Guardian reported.


Japan had been hunting whales in the waters off Antarctica for "research" purposes since 1987, according to BBC News. The hunts killed between 200 and 1,200 whales a year, and conservationists accused the Japanese government of using the hunts as a cover for commercial whaling, since much of the meat was eventually sold.

Following its decision to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in December 2018, Japan is ending the Antarctic hunts, but resuming commercial whaling in its own waters.

The decision has prompted an international outcry. A group of NGOs, celebrities and activists including Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and Dr. Jane Goodall signed an open letter to the nations involved in the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan urging them to pressure the Japanese government to abandon its whaling plans, as CBS News reported.

"Today, all whale populations are vulnerable to non-hunting threats including bycatch, ship collisions, climate change, and chemical, litter and noise pollution, which will take their toll on these mammals long into the future," the letter said. "It therefore remains critical that co-ordinated global efforts are maintained to ensure the continued protection and survival of the world's whales. This includes maintaining the international ban on commercial whaling."

Despite international criticism, three whaling vessels left the port of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Monday, and five smaller ships embarked from Kushiro in Hokkaido, The Japan Times reported. Together, they are launching the first commercial Japanese whale hunt in 31 years.

The country's Fisheries Agency has set a quota of 227 whales: 52 minke, 150 Bryde's and 25 sei, which can be hunted through December. The numbers are based on what the government considers a sustainable catch if whaling were to continue for 100 years.

Minke and Bryde's whales are not considered endangered species by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Sei whales are, but their numbers are increasing, BBC News reported.

"We will conduct commercial whaling based on scientific grounds and appropriate resource management," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a press conference reported by The Japan Times. "We hope it will get on track as quickly as possible, rejuvenate the community and lead to the handover of our country's rich whaling culture to the next generation."

However, some argue that Japan's whaling culture is already in inevitable decline. The Japanese consumed around 200,000 tons of whale meat in the 1960s, but only around 5,000 tons currently.

"The palates of the Japanese people have moved on," International Fund for Animal Welfare Marine Conservation Director Patrick Ramage told the Guardian. "They have lost their yen for whale meat, even as their government has spent billions in taxpayer yen trying to prop up this economic loser. What we are seeing is the beginning of the end of Japanese whaling."

Marine life protection group Sea Shepherd, meanwhile, vowed to continue to fight Japanese whaling as it fights whaling in the other countries that have left the IWC to hunt whales for profit: Norway, Iceland and Denmark.

"For now we ask the people of Japan to join us in this global fight, calling on your Government to lay down their harpoons once and for all, for the critical role whales play in maintaining a thriving and healthy ocean for us all," Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson said in a statement.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new study invites parents of cancer patients to answer questions about their environment. FatCamera / Getty Images

By Jennifer Sass, Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, Dr. Philip J. Landrigan and Simon Strong

"Prevention is the cure for child/teen cancer." This is the welcoming statement on a website called 'TheReasonsWhy.Us', where families affected by childhood cancers can sign up for a landmark new study into the potential environmental causes.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Madagascar has been experiencing ongoing droughts and food insecurity since 2016. arturbo / Getty Images

Nearly 1.6 million people in the southern part of Madagascar have faced food insecurity since 2016, experiencing one drought after another, the United Nations World Food Program reported.

Read More Show Less
Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

Read More Show Less
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst stand at the Orion spacecraft during a visit at the training unit of the Columbus space laboratory at the European Astronaut training centre of the European Space Agency ESA in Cologne, Germany on May 18, 2016. Ina Fassbender / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Monir Ghaedi

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.

Read More Show Less