Japanese Whaling Season Over, 88 Whales Taken

TOKYO, Japan, September 19, 2000 (ENS) - After nearly two months at sea, the Japanese whaling fleet is back home with 88 whales taken from the northwestern Pacific Ocean in what the Japanese call a "scientific research" program.

The six ships returned with five sperm whales and 43 Bryde's whales in addition to 40 minke whales. This is the first year Japan has taken sperm and Bryde's whales in addition to its self-alloted quota of 500 minke whales a year.


Bryde's whale (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
Japan has defended its right to kill these species for research over the protests of the United States, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The International Whaling Commission passed a non-binding resolution at its annual meeting in July condemning the Japanese research whaling.

On September 13, the United States took the first step towards imposing trade sanctions on Japan for the latest round of whaling that killed the sperm and Bryde's whales.

Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta sent a letter of certification to President Bill Clinton detailing a long history of problems with Japan over their "scientific" whale hunts where the "researched" whales end up as high-priced delicacy foods on the Japanese gourmet market.

Japanese officials say the research whaling is legal under International Whaling Commission rules. Japan maintains that the meat is sold under an IWC requirement which states that all whales killed for research must be used.

"This is the third time Japan has been certified for so-called scientific research whaling," said Secretary Mineta in his letter to the President. "The first was in 1988, when Japan initiated its Antarctic program that now entails an annual take of 440 minke whales. The second was in 1995, after Japan extended its program to the North Pacific, where it has been killing 100 minke whales per year. This spring, Japan proposed an expansion of the North Pacific program, to include the take of 10 sperm whales and 50 Bryde’s whales."

Mineta's certification of Japan under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967 triggers a process that allows the President to consider trade sanctions against Japan. He must report any actions he may take to Congress within 60 days.


The Japanese whaling ship Kyo Maru No. 1 leaving Shimonoseki, Japan in late July. (Photo courtesy International Fund for Animal Welfare)
President Clinton has directed his cabinet to report back to him before the 60 day period expires. The Departments of Treasury, Commerce, State, Interior and the U.S. Trade Representative will look at additional measures to protect whales, including such steps as ensuring that items imported into the U.S. do not include any whale by-products.

Takaaki Sakamoto, the Japanese Fisheries Agency official in charge of whaling, said that Japan again plans to take up to 100 minke whales, 50 Bryde's whales and 10 sperm whales in the western North Pacific Ocean.

Japanese officials maintain that these species are abundant enough to withstand the research program.

The International Whaling Commission says it is currently conducting a population assessment of minke whales and Bryde's whales in the western North Pacific and is not prepared to estimate the numbers of these species. The IWC gives no estimate of sperm whale populations at all.

As a measure to punish Japan for its expanded whale hunt, the United States last week decided to deny Japan access to fishing rights in U.S. waters.

U.S. diplomats skipped several environmental conferences and will not attend several upcoming international meetings as part of the country's show of displeasure with the expanded whale hunt.