15 Apr 2015

Whaling plan under scrutiny

11:23 am on 15 April 2015

The government is welcoming a scientific review which has discredited Japan's latest plan to conduct lethal scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Minke whale

A minke whale on the deck of a Japanese whaling ship for research whaling at Antarctic Ocean. Photo: AFP / Institute of Cetacean Research

Japan was forced to reconsider its plans for scientific whaling after it lost a case at the International Court of Justice last year.

An expert panel of the International Whaling Commission, set up to review Japan's Antarctic whaling plan, said it did not provide enough information to justify the killings.

In March last year the International Court of Justiceruled that Japan's Southern Ocean whaling programme did not serve the purposes of scientific research, and must cease. It told Japan to investigate non-lethal research methods.

Toward the end of last year, Japan presented a new proposal in which it outlined two main scientific objectives: to find out more about the Antarctic Minke Whales' biology and ecology; and to investigate the whales' ecosystem dynamics.

Read the full proposal document here. (PDF, 1.87MB)

To do this, it proposed new non-lethal whaling techniques but also said it would need to kill up to 333 minke whales each year for 12 years.

The IWC's expert panel the information in the plan did not demonstrate the need for lethal sampling for Japan's research objectives. Read the expert panel's report. (PDF, 1.47MB)

It has asked Japan to spend two to three more years gathering that information so the panel can reconsider its application.

"In summary, with the information presented in the proposal, the Panel was not able to determine whether lethal sampling is necessary to achieve the two major objectives; therefore, the current proposal does not demonstrate the need for lethal sampling to achieve those objectives"

In a statement, New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it would ensure the plan was fully scrutinised according to the court's decision and a successful IWC resolution put forward last year.

"New Zealand's fundamental opposition to scientific whaling is well known. We firmly believe that whale research can be conducted using non-lethal means," the statement said.

"The report released by the IWC Expert Panel makes it clear that Japan's current proposal does not make a strong enough case for lethal sampling."

Sid Chakravarty, captain of Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon, said Japan simply could not make the case for lethal whaling.

"Japan [is] always claiming that lethal whaling is the only technique that they have. I believe now they are being presented with options," he said.

"Once they've explored all those options, only then will the committee be in a place to say 'well there's some science that still can't be achieved, and therefore a resumption of Japanese lethal whaling would be justified'."

The panel's report will go to a full meeting of the International Whaling Commission's scientific committee next month in San Diego.

Japan has promised to provide more information on why it should resume whaling and says it is determined to return to the Southern Ocean.

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