Japan Shops a New, Vulnerable Species for Its Whale Hunt

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2024 8:43 AM CDT
Japan Looks to Add Vulnerable Species to Whale Hunt
A fin whale is seen stranded, possibly stuck on its belly, in a shallow fjord on the western coast at Vejle, Denmark, on June 16, 2010.   (Benny F. Nielsen, Polfoto via AP, File)

Commercial whaling in Japan could soon expand to include a fourth species—one already considered vulnerable. Japan currently allows hunting of the Bryde's whale, minke whale, and endangered sei whale in the North Pacific. It's now considering adding a fourth eligible species: fin whales. The fin whale, up to 85 feet long, is the second-largest whale species after the blue whale. Commercial whaling caused the population to plummet in the early 20th century. Fin whales are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species "because the remaining population is considered to be such a small fraction of what it was before modern whaling," according to the International Whaling Commission.

Japan's Fisheries Agency claims stock surveys show sufficient recovery of the fin whale population in the North Pacific, per Earth.com. "Whales are important food resources and should be sustainably utilized, based on scientific evidence," Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan's minister for foreign affairs, said last week, adding it's "important to carry on Japan's traditional food culture." Japan already receives fin whale meat from Iceland, where the hunting of fin and minke whales is permitted. (Norway is the only other country allowing whale hunts.) The decision to allow the hunting of fin whales in Japan appears to rest on public feedback, to be accepted until June 5. Without much opposition, fin whales could be on the chopping block beginning in mid-June.

"The decision to increase whaling quotas, particularly targeting vulnerable species, is irresponsible and exacerbates the risk of extinction," says Luke McMillan of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, per BBC Wildlife. The Fisheries Agency says there's no plan to significantly increase the meat obtained from commercial whaling. However, ABC Australia reports Japan wants to double the nation's consumption of whale meat from about 2,000 tons annually to keep its whaling industry afloat. There would be no limit on the number of fin whales that could be targeted, Earth.com reports. The annual quota for the other three species is 379 combined. Some 294 were killed in 2023 and 270 in 2022, per Reuters and Live Science. (Iceland yanked its whale hunt last year.)

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