By Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
The Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) reports that the Japanese NEWREP-A proposal, which would kill 3,996 minke whales over the next 12 years for “lethal research,” has failed to demonstrate any need to hunt whales for scientific research.
Japan has declared its intent to continue hunting whales in the Southern Ocean regardless. At a press conference in Tokyo on June 19 following the release of the IWC report, Japan’s IWC Commissioner, Joji Morishita, said that Japan’s plans remain unchanged.
“We of course intend to resume whaling again this year,” Morishita told a news conference.
Despite its determination that Japan had failed to demonstrate the need for lethal research, the Scientific Committee noted they could not make definitive findings on NEWREP-A, because the plan contained “insufficient information.” The IWC had been expected to decide whether NEWREP-A addressed the issues that led to Japanese whaling being ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year.
Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd founder and senior strategic advisor for Sea Shepherd USA, is confident that the IWC will continue to reject Japan’s attempts to illegally renew commercial whaling under the NEWREP-A plan.
“Japan insists they are a nation that adheres to the rule of law, yet the International Court of Justice has ruled and their verdict was that Japan’s whaling is not ‘scientific research.’ Not only is Japan now spitting in the eye of the ICJ, they are impudently rejecting the decisions of the IWC. They are acting like a rogue nation when it comes to international conservation law,” said Captain Paul Watson. “Japan cannot demonstrate any new science to the IWC to justify their illegal activities for the simple reason that the science does not exist; it never has and no matter how much they dress it up, the plan is flawed scientifically.”
Scientific Justification for Whaling
In February, a 10-person expert panel selected by the IWC’s Scientific Committee, including four U.S. representatives, took the bold step of rejecting Japan’s latest whaling plan, finding that it lacks a legitimate scientific basis.
The full Scientific Committee’s report agreed with the expert panel on most points, finding that Japan has not substantiated the need to kill whales in order to support either of these research objectives, and recommending that Japan suspend its scientific whaling program while it tests non-lethal research methods such as satellite tagging, analysis of biopsy samples, and aerial photography and tracking.
Among the materials considered by the Scientific Committee was a letter from a group of 500 scientists from 30 countries, who voiced their strong opposition to NEWREP-A on the grounds that it is scientifically “unacceptable per se” and embodies a “serious mistake in the scientific method” by giving methodology (i.e., lethal whaling) prevalence over objectives, despite the availability of superior non-lethal techniques. The 500 scientists concluded that NEWREP-A is not scientific in nature, but rather “the result of commercial and political interests,” which “seriously undermines science.”
In March 2014, the ICJ concluded a case brought by Australia and New Zealand, finding that Japan’s previous whaling program (known as “JARPA II”) violated international law. JARPA II authorized the killing of as many as 935 minke whales, 50 endangered fin whales, and 50 humpback whales every year in the Southern Ocean. Between 2005 and 2014, Japan killed about 3,600 minke whales and 18 fin whales under JARPA II.
The ICJ ruled that Japan had failed to provide a legitimate scientific justification for its lethal whaling, and that its whaling under JARPA II was thus in violation of the international commercial whaling moratorium and the prohibition on commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The ICJ held that Japan must revoke existing permits and refrain from granting any more permits under JARPA II.
In response to the ICJ decision, Japan suspended its Southern Ocean whale hunt during the 2014-2015 season. However, last fall, Japan introduced NEWREP-A, the plan that the Scientific Committee has now rejected.
“Japan is either bluffing or they have lost the plot entirely. They simply cannot go whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary under the guise of scientific research without the approval of the IWC. If they do, it will invalidate the very reason that the IWC exists and it will broadcast to the world that Japan has no respect for international conservation law,” said Captain Watson. “Sea Shepherd expects the international community to strongly condemn and to censure any attempts by Japan to ignore their obligations to the rule of law.”