Apart from the Antarctic whale hunts that have generated so much controversy in the international community, Japan is now also being criticized by an environmental group for the hunting of smaller whales, dolphins and porpoises that threaten these species with extinction. The Environmental Investigation Agency, a London-based independent conservation group, said in its report that the catch quotas that Japan is using are based on very old data and as such are no longer relevant, and that some species have been overhunted beyond the point of recovery.
Japan set its catch limit for small cetaceans at 16,655 for the year 2013 – this is far below the 30,000 that was caught annually before limits were set in 1993, but the EIA still points to data showing that Japan’s hunting is still the largest hunt in the world. Japan currently defends coastal whaling as a part of culture and tradition, a source of livelihood and a necessary element for scientific research. The independent conservation group said that Japan is failing to observe its stated goal of sustainability and is now urging the country to phase out the coastal hunts over the next decade. “The government has a responsibility to restore and maintain cetacean species at their former levels,” said Jennifer Lonsdale, a founding director of the EIA.
Small cetaceans are among a number of species facing severe declines in Japan. They include Japanese eels – a local delicacy – and torafugu, or puffer fish. Catch limits for Dall’s porpoises are 4.7-4.8 times higher than the safe threshold, the report said. For the striped dolphin, catches have dropped from over 1,800 in the 1980s to about 100, but that is still four times higher than the sustainable limit. The report also points to the lucrative market in live catches for aquariums, especially in China. Live animals sell for between US$8,400 and US$98,000 in a rapidly growing market.
[via UT San Diego]