Imagine hunting for sharks. Now thinking bigger – think whales.
Whaling is the act of hunting whales (duh!) for their meat and oil. While the practice has been recorded as far back as 5,000 years ago, industrial whaling only began somewhere in the 17th century, leading to competitive national whaling industries in the 18th and 19th centuries.
According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) organisation, Japan had reportedly slaughtered 103 whales in the 2012 – 2013 Antarctic season, and a total of 445 whales in the 2011 – 2012 season. The figures include whales of different species, comprising Bryde’s whales, Fin whales and Sei whales.
The WDC reports that Japan sells a staggering 7,500 tonnes of whale meat annually from their whaling activities.
However, in recent years, demand for the meat has dropped to 50g per person in 2005 from 2,000g per person in 1967, forcing shops to slash prices by half to move stockpiles as more than 4,000 tonnes of frozen meat was still in storage at the end of 2009.
According to Paul Watson, the founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Japan began whaling in the 1890s and became involved in commercial whaling in the 20th century. This continued until the International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued a moratorium that put a stop to commercial whaling in 1986.
Yet, Japan continued whaling through a loop-hole, which still allowed whaling for scientific purposes, sparking claims from environmental groups that the research was a disguise for commercial whaling.
On March 31, 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan must stop its whaling activities in the Antarctic immediately.
The decision was finalised after a 16-judge panel ruled 12 votes to four in favour of Australia’s argument that Japan’s whaling programme was not carried out for scientific purposes.
If you’re an avid fan of Animal Planet, then you would surely have come across the television series Whale Wars. The series features a group of anti-whaling activists who are part of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
While the documentary-style television series – starring Paul Watson and his crew – was a hit among most critics, Japan denounced the programme, claiming that it was deceptive and supportive of eco-terrorists.