The whaling season in the north-eastern coastal waters of Japan has officially begun as four whaling ships left Ayukawa port in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. This season, they are aiming to catch 60 minke whales for research purposes, as is their loophole to be able to continue with the practice and "tradition" of hunting whales, despite the international community's protests.
New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully confirmed that they are joining the case against Japan's whaling practices at the International Court of Justice. Australia brought the case to the ICJ in May 2010, but public hearings are about to start this June at The Hague in Netherlands.
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), a U.S.-based lobby group that looks towards humane treatment of animals, is crying foul over an unexpected export of whale products originating from Norway to Japan. In the bill of lading obtained by AWI, the shipment weighs over four metric tons and is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on April 12, forcing the animal rights group to call on the government of the United States for action against the Scandinavian country.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said that there will probably no end to whaling in Japan, in spite of the sometimes violent objection from conservationists. He believes that the criticism of the whaling practice is “a cultural attack, a kind of prejudice against Japanese culture”.
Environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., together with the conservation group Sea Shepherd, has asked the US Supreme Court to rescind an order that forces the group to stay away from Japan's whalers. RFK Jr., the son and namesake of the slain political icon, has urged the United States to support the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
As part of this week's International Whaling Commission in Panama City, South Korea has stated that it will begin hunting and killing minke whales in its surrounding waters. While whaling outlawed by international sanctions, South Korea will be following in Japan's footsteps by using a loophole that allows lethal scientific research. This announcement has only further angered conservationist nations, as on Tuesday, Japan and several other nations at the commission voted against the creation of a whale sanctuary in the Atlantic Ocean.
Japan and other nations that engage in whaling activities, like Norway and Iceland, voted against a proposed whale sanctuary to be created in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Monday was the first day of the week-long International Whaling Commission, held in Panama City this year. Latin American countries Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, along with South Africa, had brought up the proposal of a no-kill whale zone.