Japanese Whaling Group Slaughters 122 Pregnant Minke Whales
The Japanese whaling fleet killed a total of 333 minke whales during its most recent 'field survey' to the Antarctic.
Of that total, 152 were male and 181 were female, 122 of which were found to be pregnant. Furthermore, 61 of the males and 53 of the females were found to be juveniles. The 2017/18 'field survey' killed the whales during a 12-week expedition, with the carcasses sold on as meat for the Japanese market.
The 'field survey' report, submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), states its objectives as:
I) Improvements in the precision of biological and ecological information for the application of the RMP (Revised Management Procedure) to the Antarctic minke whales, and
II) Investigation of the structure and dynamics of the Antarctic marine ecosystem through building ecosystem models.
Whale hunting for scientific purposes is, strictly speaking, a legal activity, under a 1946 ruling by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. In 2014 however, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for a limit to 'lethal research'. Despite international condemnation, the Japanese whaling group submitted a subsequent report outlining 'The importance of scientific research in the Antarctic ocean' through its whaling activities and agreed to 'limit' it's annual catch to 333 minke whales.
Japan has a long history of whaling as a source of meat; the topography of the Japanese islands makes livestock farming particularly difficult, however, whale and dolphin hunting – such as the annual Taiji dolphin slaughter – were, historically, limited to coastal waters until after the Second World War, when Japan began hunting in the Antarctic.
The target of the whale hunts – the minke whale – is divided into two species, the common (or northern) minke whale and the Antarctic (or southern) minke whale. The northern minke whale is currently listed as being of 'least concern' by the IUCN and is extensively hunted, particularly by Norway and Iceland. Indeed. according to the UK's Whale and Dolphin Commission (WDC), Norway's yearly catch is almost double that of Japan's.
The Antarctic minke whale is listed by the IUCN as 'data deficient', meaning that nobody knows how many there really are which, in part, is used by Japan as justification for its annual mass slaughter of pregnant females and juvenile whales. Many scientists and conservationists would agree that non-lethal methods of research would be beneficial to the whale populations, conservation and scientific research in the Antarctic ocean.