The New Zealand Government will oppose Japan’s plans to expand its “research” whaling catch in the Antarctic Ocean because of threats to New Zealand’s ecology and its tourism industry.
Reports this week have said the Japanese government intends to expand the scope of its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean to humpback and fin whales from late this year, as well as nearly doubling its catch of minke whales.
It is understood Japan intends to put its new plan to the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), of which Japan is a member, from May 30 in South Korea.
A spokesman for New Zealand’s Conservation Minister Chris Carter said the whales Japan would hunt as part of their increased catch were the same whales that visited New Zealand.
The whales played an important part in New Zealand’s tourism industry through ventures such as whale watching.
Mr Carter hoped to attend the IWC meeting and express New Zealand’s disagreement to the Japanese plan.
“The blindingly obvious point is you don’t have to kill whales to study them,” the spokesman said.
Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a 1986 IWC moratorium, but has been hunting whales since 1987 for what it calls scientific research purposes.
Ecologists worldwide have accused Japan of using its research whaling program as a cover for commercial hunting as whale meat obtained for research has been sold for consumption in Japan.
Humpback and fin whales, which have decreased in number due to past commercial hunting, are classified as endangered on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species.
Under the envisioned plan, Japan will initially catch about 10 humpback and fin whales, respectively, and gradually increase its target.
As for minke whales, it intends to sharply increase its annual catch, which currently stands at about 400 a year.
Japan caught 440 minke whales from last year to early this year.
The IWC bans commercial whaling but allows research whaling after reviewing proposals submitted by the corresponding governments.
New Zealand has repeatedly protested the loophole.