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Japan Plays Politics with Humpback Whales

Japan Plays Politics with Humpback Whales

14 Nov 2008 – If the Government of Japan is genuine about participating in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) reform talks it will have to do more than remove humpbacks from its kill list this year, according to IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare).

The IWC reform process is underway in an attempt to break the deadlock between pro-whaling and pro-conservation members, a deadlock that was caused by Japan’s ‘vote consolidation’ program. The next closed-door meeting starts on 8 December in England.

In a poor attempt to show good faith in the talks Japan has taken humpbacks off the menu this year but the Japanese whaling fleet is still preparing to depart to kill nearly 1000 whales, including endangered fin whales, in the pristine Antarctic whale sanctuary.

“Japan is once again playing politics on the backs of humpbacks - a real statement of good will would be for the Japanese fleet to stay at home,” said IFAW Programs Manager, Darren Kindleysides.

“When the Japanese whaling fleet heads south so will the IWC unless the Government of Japan suspends its entire ‘scientific’ whaling program.

“The Japanese Government’s participation in the IWC is completely insincere. On one hand, Japan sits in meetings supposedly working towards a new future for the IWC and on the other is making a mockery of the process by sending a fleet of boats to kill whales in a Whale Sanctuary,” Mr Kindleysides said.

Japan’s fleet usually departs in mid November but this year the lack of pomp and ceremony which typically accompanies the departure underlines that Japan is attempting to keep its provocative whaling program low key this year.

Humpback whales have been protected from commercial hunting for more than 40 years, and support whale watching industries worth AU$300 million in Australia, NZ$120 million in New Zealand and US$21 million in the Pacific Islands region.

Legal analyses by international panels of independent legal experts convened in Paris, London and Sydney have found Japan's expanding commercial whaling to be in violation of several international laws and treaties including IWC regulations, the Antarctic Treaty System and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

ENDS

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