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Japan is the first nation to slaughter whales in 2011, hunting in the protected Antarctic Southern Ocean.
Activists witnessed at least one whale kill on 25 January in the pristine Antarctic Southern Ocean, an IWC-designated Whale Sanctuary, carried out by Japanese whalers whose quota earmarks the slaughter of more than 1000 whales in 2011. Besides targeting as many as 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales, this is also be the third season where 50 humpbacks remain on Japan’s target list, following the country’s failure to lift the ban on commercial whaling.
Only around 40% of whales harpooned in Japanese hunts die within 10 seconds of being struck meaning that around 600 whales are susceptible to appalling cruelty this year, suffering from their horrific wounds for extended periods of time - some for over an hour – before they die.
WSPA’s Marine Mammal Programme Manager, Joanna Toole said: “It defies all logic that this cruel slaughter still continues in the midst of intense international condemnation and with the appetite for whale meat at an all time low. Commercial whaling causes immense suffering no matter where it takes place and which species are targeted. This is an unnecessary and archaic industry that should be consigned to the history books.”
Whilst Japan has embarked on its 2011 hunting season in the Southern Ocean, the other whaling nations of Norway and Iceland have also been making preparations for the unnecessary slaughter of over 1,300 more whales.
Norway has revealed that the 2011 whaling quota for the season which traditionally starts in April has been set at 1286 minke whales - the same as in 2010. If this number were actually taken, it would represent the largest commercial whale hunt in the world.
However in recent years, due to a failing market for whale meat products, Norwegian hunters have only taken around a third of their allocated quota, which WSPA and other organisations see as a clear indication of a dying industry.
In a separate development, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has criticised Iceland’s resumption of its trade in fin whale products, after the nation exported over 800 tonnes of whale products last year, including meat from endangered fin whales. Iceland currently has a rolling annual quota for 100 minke whales and 150 fin whales.
This year, WSPA will continue to push for the IWC to seriously address the fundamental welfare problems of whaling. Alongside the UK Government, we are organising a workshop on whale welfare and ethics for academics and policy makers to be held on 22nd and 23rd March at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK.
At last year’s IWC meeting, the UK’s proposal for this workshop was met by overwhelming support from other countries, including Belgium, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Costa Rica, India and Brazil.
International experts in animal welfare and ethics will attend the workshop and engage in discussion and analysis of the information presented. Any agreed recommendations from the workshop will go into a report that will provide the IWC with an insight into current international thinking on animal welfare science and management as well as academic viewpoints on animal ethics. WSPA hopes this will allow the Commission to make enlightened and progressive decisions on whaling and other whale welfare issues in the future.