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Shinzo Abe’s “Way Forward” Is Step Backwards Towards Whaling

SNA (Tokyo) — The Abe administration has called for the end of the whaling ban imposed by the International Whaling Commission in 1986. Instead, the government has proposed its “Way Forward” initiative, hoping to gain the support of other pro-whaling nations. A meeting taking place in Brazil this week will be discussing this topic with member states.

Through the “Way Forward” initiative, Japan aims to create a “Sustainable Whaling Committee.” This would install a catching quota for nations that wish to hunt whale populations for commercial purposes. However, the European Union and other nations such as Australia are committed to block this initiative in hopes of protecting these mammals.

Brazil, the host of the International Whaling Commission meeting this week, is also aiming to expand the whale protection zone from the current Antarctic and Indian Oceans Sanctuaries to the entire South Atlantic.

With a deep history of conflict among organizations and nations on the issue of whaling, these states are yet again gearing up for battle.

Although in 2014 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had rejected Japan’s excuse that its “scientific whaling” was not commercial whaling, the Japanese government simply ignored the ruling.

Japanese whalers have continued their hunts, and harpooned 333 minke whales this year alone under its so-called “scientific whaling” program. According to a report released last month by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), more than 15,600 whales in the Antarctic have been killed by Japan since the ban was imposed.

The Abe government has argued that the international ruling of the ICJ goes against the cultural traditions of its nation, and so whaling should be permitted in order to preserve these traditions. However, as reported by the EIA, 3,500 supermarkets in Japan have stopped selling whale products. In addition, 85% of Japanese citizens oppose the use of taxpayer money to build a new whaling ship.

Claire Bass, the executive director of Humane Society International UK, expressed her concern that if Japan’s proposal passes, it would once again have detrimental effects upon the whale population. She states, “The very reason that many species of whale were driven to near extinction in the first place is because of decades of unrelenting and merciless commercial whaling. The fact that some of these whales have just now started to recover from that decimation should in no way be seen as a green light to start massacring them again.”

Discussions are currently underway whether or not commercial whaling should now be permitted. While Japan and its whaling allies, such as Iceland and Norway, are key supporters, many other nations are committed to the protection of whales.

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