A Détente in Whale Wars?
We’ve made more progress in our anti-whaling campaign in the last two days than in the prior two decades. Just 48 hours after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) called for a halt to Japan’s whaling program – declaring it in violation of an International Whaling Commission moratorium – Japan has announced that it will not send a whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean this hunting season. For the Humane Society International (HSI), which incubated the idea of the ICJ challenge 15 years ago, this is cause for glee.
Every year, for more than a century, Japan has been killing whales in the Southern Ocean. Since 1986 when the IWC moratorium went into effect, Japan has killed 10,500 whales in this region alone, using a loophole that allows countries to kill whales for scientific purposes. The majority of countries around the world, including the majority of parties to the IWC, recognize Japan’s actions as commercial whaling very thinly disguised as a scientific enterprise.
More good news came in late last night when Rakuten, the world’s largest Internet seller of whale and dolphin meat products, agreed to stop all sales of products derived from whales by April 30th this year. Rakuten joins Amazon and Google in refusing to sell whale and dolphin products. The only remaining major Internet seller of whale and dolphin products in Japan now is Yahoo. That company should cease sales, too.
Much work remains in making the oceans a safe and healthy environment for whales and other marine creatures. Marine debris, toxic pollutants, ship strikes and climate change are just a few of those threats. But when it comes to whaling, there is a sea change afoot. After the ICJ action on Japan, Iceland and Norway - the two remaining commercial whaling nations - would do well to put their harpoon guns in storage. There is no honor in being the last nation to participate in the intentional slaughter of some of the largest mammals ever to grace the planet.