U.S. Protests Japan’s Announced Return to Whaling in Antarctic

Washington - The United States expresses deep regret that Japan's whaling fleet departed November 15 to continue a controversial hunt, part of a Japanese research plan,  in the Antarctic, according to a November 16 statement from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Japan announced that it would kill up to 935 minke whales and 10 fin whales under a special provision of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that many nations believe is a loophole for banned commercial whaling.

The minke whale is a marine mammal that belongs to the suborder of baleen whales. They have a characteristic white band on each flipper, contrasting with a dark gray top color, and two blowholes, like all baleen whales.

The fin whale is in the same family as minke whales. It is second only to the blue whale in size and weight and is among the fastest of the great whales.

"We are very concerned that this scientific whaling program in the IWC's Southern Ocean Sanctuary is a further expansion of lethal research on Antarctic minke whales and fin whales," said Bill Hogarth, U.S. commissioner to the IWC and director of the NOAA Fisheries Service.

"These catches will only increase the growing friction within the IWC over how to deal with the expanding scientific whaling by Japan,” he added.


The United States sees the Japanese research plan as unnecessary for managing the whales, Hogarth said, adding that nearly all research objectives can be achieved by using nonlethal techniques.

The United States long has opposed Japan's lethal research whaling as unnecessary and undermining the IWC's conservation program. It is very concerned about changes in the scale and nature of Japan's research whaling; Japan's whaling far exceeds all previous scientific hunts over the 59-year history of the IWC.

In 2005, Japan began a new, long-term research program in the Antarctic (JARPA II) without first having analyzed the results of its prior 18-year research program (JARPA I), which included killing thousands of Antarctic minke whales.

Under JARPA II, Japan is more than doubling its harvest of Antarctic minke whales to about 935, and including the take of two new whale stocks - fin whales and humpback whales.


Japan now is subject to ongoing certifications under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act, a U.S. law, because its whaling activities continue to undermine the effectiveness of the whaling convention and the IWC.

The Fishermen’s Protective Act provides for federal reimbursement of money paid by owners to secure the release of fishing vessels improperly seized by foreign countries. It also sets up a fund to compensate owners for damage to or destruction of their fishing vessels or gear.

The Pelly Amendment authorizes the U.S. president to prohibit the importation of products from countries whose fishing operations diminish the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program or that engage in trade or taking that diminishes the effectiveness of an international program for endangered or threatened species.

See also "U.S., 24 Other Countries, Commission Protest Iceland's Whaling."

The press release and more information on whales are available at the NOAA Web site.

For more information on U.S. policy, see Environment.