I’ve about had it with Japan. Ever since a hard-fought moratorium on commercial whaling worldwide went into effect back in 1987, Japan (and Norway) have contined to hunt whales – and sell whale meat – under the guise of “scientific research.” Japan has since killed approximately 7,900 minke whales, 243 Bryde’s whales, 140 sei whales, and 38 sperm whales. This June, at the yearly meeting of the International Whaling Commission, the Japanese delegation thumbed their noses at the U.S. and other nations, announcing plans to double their annual catch of Antarctic minkes (to just under a thousand) and to start taking 50 humpback and 50 fin whales every year as well.
At the same time, as they continued to buy the votes of new IWC members from small nations, Japan came closer than ever this year to its goal of overturning the commercial whaling ban. “Foreigners need to understand this is part of our culture,” as one spokesperson put it.
Well, my cultural understanding hits a cul-de-sac when I think of these most majestic of oceanic creatures again falling victim to the harpoons that nearly wiped them off the face of the earth. I’m equally sickened at the attitude of some of the big wildlife “protection” groups, which see Japan’s crusade as inevitably succeeding and thus are ready to compromise by suporting a Revised Management Scheme. (For the latest scientists’ assessment of what Japan is up to, click here. My previous coverage of this issue appears here.)
To me, whale hunting is unconscionable at any juncture – but even more so today, when our marine mammals are facing so many other threats: Navy sonar so loud it drives many species to strand themselves, ship strikes killing the already-endangered right whales, oil drilling that may wipe out the Western Pacific gray whales, and global warming imperiling the lower food chain upon which they all depend.
This is not a time to “play ball” with those who, for cultural or corporate reasons, put in jeopardy these beautiful, sentient, intelligent animals.