Japan’s coastal whale hunting season in the Sea of Japan began as the first catch of Baird’s beaked whale was landed in Hakodate port, Hokkaido.

Fishermen from the Taiji fisheries association in Wakayama Prefecture said they caught the Baird’s beaked whale – a male nine metres long and weighing 10 tons – off the town of Matsumae in Hokkaido.

The whale was taken to a seafood processing factory in Hakodate to be put up for auction, they said.

After a 27-year suspension, Japan resumed coastal hunting of small cetaceans, including the Baird’s beaked whale, in the Sea of Japan in May 1999, breaking a self-imposed ban on harvesting for resource conservation.

Japan hunts the whale under a quota system. This year, it is allowing whalers to catch up to 10 beaked whales in the Sea of Japan, in addition to an annual quota of 52 in the Pacific Ocean before the hunting season ends on June 30.

Baird’s beaked whale is found in the North Pacific Ocean, and most commonly seen around Japan, central California in the United States and off Vancouver Island in Canada.

This species falls outside the jurisdiction of the International Whaling Commission as it is assumed that it is not in immediate danger of extinction.

Japan has voluntarily limited catches of the mammals in light of the IWC’s overall sentiment against the slaughter of whales.

Source: TVNZ (New Zealand)