A few weeks after the International Court of Justice ordered a halt to Japan’s “scientific whaling” in the Southern Ocean, the whalers are now back hunting. This time, they are scouring the North West Pacific for their prey, which is anticipated to renew anti-whaling protests by environmentalists.
Whale hunts have long been part of Japan’s tradition, which dates back to the 17th century. In the coastal town of Ayukawa in northern Japan, whale hunts have been an integral part of their economy especially after the 2011 tsunami, which has affected business in the area. Local chef Kenji Takahashi echoes the sentiment, saying that whaling has become the town’s lifeline after the disaster. Another local, Masayuki Chijimatsu, believes whale meat is already deeply ingrained in the local cuisine. He compared whale meat to Japan as beef is to Australia, noting that it’s something that cannot be easily removed.
With their supposedly scientific hunts, Japan hopes to study enough whales to draw the conclusion that enough supply is available for commercial hunting. According to Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, “Japan is surrounded by sea and we take protein from marine products and use them sustainably.” He added, “This is our principle and it won’t change.”
Even legislators and other politicians in Japan have come to defend the whale hunts as a source of nationalistic pride. Democratic Party of Japan member Katsuya Ogawa said, “ We cannot take a weak attitude and end the traditions of research whaling. Let’s unite and fight in order to protect whaling culture and its food traditions.” With Japan bent on continuing the hunts, it remains to be seen if the current ruling to stop hunts in the Southern Ocean will soon be appealed by environmentalists to cover the Pacific as well.
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