Whale Wars, Part XXII: Japan Targets Humpback Whales

by Julian Ku

The apparently insatiable Japanese appetite for whale meat is driving yet another Japanese whaling expedition to the South Pacific. This time, Japan is planning to hunt the much more endangered humpback whales. Japan is apparently hunting these whales under Article VIII of the Protocol to the International Whaling Convention:

Notwithstanding anything contained in this Convention any Contracting Government may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research…

Australia and New Zealand have long opposed these hunts and have accused Japan of blatantly abusing this exception. This year, the new Labor Australian government (not yet elected, but a shoo-in next week supposedly) has promised to dispatch military surveillance planes to track the Japanese whaling fleet. Apparently, this would be part of its fact-gathering for an eventual lawsuit in some international tribunal. Of course, the Japanese won’t announce when they will begin their hunt. Let the pre-litigation discovery begin!


2 Responses

  1. Given the potential for abuse of this clause, I am curious as to why the IWC was written this way. Surely a better formulation would have been something to the effect that a country (or perhaps better still, research agency) wishing to take whales for scientific purposes could apply to the IWC for a permit, which would allow for regulation of the total number of whales killed for research as well as an objective balancing of the scientific value of the research and the endangerment of the whales. Were the framers really so naive as not to anticipate this sort of abuse, or was this loophole necessitated by political considerations?

  2. Might I point Japan at the following part of the treaty:

    Article XI

    Any Contracting Government may withdraw from this Convention on 30th June, of any year by giving notice on or before 1st January, of the same year to the depository Government, which upon receipt of such a notice shall at once communicate it to the other Contracting Governments. Any other Contracting Government may, in like manner, within one month of the receipt of a copy of such a notice from the depository Government give notice of withdrawal, so that the Convention shall cease to be in force on 30th June, of the same year with respect to the Government giving such notice of withdrawal.

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