Japan defies Whaling Commission, begins Dall's porpoise hunt
Japan defies Whaling Commission, begins Dall's
Thursday, November 01, 2001
By Environmental News Network
In defiance of a resolution passed by the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) in London in
July, the Japanese whaling fleet begins its
controversial hunt of Dall's porpoises on Nov. 1.
At its annual meeting in July, the IWC Scientific
Committee expressed "extreme concern" over the numbers
of Dall's porpoises killed each year. It is the
largest direct kill of any whale, dolphin, or porpoise
in the world, with up to 18,000 porpoises killed each
year in hand harpoon hunts in Japanese coastal waters.
The IWC resolution, proposed by the British
delegation, called for an immediate halt to the Dall's
porpoise hunts until a full population estimate has
been carried out.
The current abundance estimate is more than 10 years
old. Since then more than 130,000 Dall's porpoises
have been reported killed. In addition, substantial
numbers have been killed by fishing vessels targeting
other species. These do not figure in official
Japan declined to give the IWC data on the numbers of
porpoises in its waters or those killed. Japanese
officials said that because the cull took place in
Japanese territorial waters, it was outside IWC
Deputy delegation head Masayuki Komatsu, backed by
several small Caribbean states, said the Commission's
writ only covers great whales, and it had no place
remarking on small cetaceans.
"Unless the Commission stops undue interference on the
catching of small cetaceans, we are not prepared to
provide information," Komatsu said. The Japanese have
refused to take part in the work of the small cetacean
subcommittee of the IWC Scientific Committee or
provide any information on the subject of coastal
cetaceans at next year's IWC meeting.
Dall's porpoises are named after the zoologist who
first noted them in the wild, William H. Dall. The IWC
first expressed concern about the sustainability of
the Dall's porpoise hunt in 1990 when it was revealed
that 67 percent of the estimated Japanese population
of this species had been killed in the previous three
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a
California-based marine mammal protection
organization, said Japan is "hunting its coastal
cetacean populations to extinction. Hundreds of boats
are licensed to kill porpoises and use specialized
equipment. They have severely depleted, in sequence,
populations of striped dolphins, pilot whales, beaked
whales, and Dall's porpoise," according to the Sea
Shepherd Society, whose founding president, Paul
Watson, has protested Japanese coastal porpoise and
dolphin kills in Japan.
DNA analyses done recently by the Environmental
Investigation Agency (EIA), a nonprofit environmental
group with offices in London and Washington, show that
meat labeled as "whale" in Japanese supermarkets is
often Dall's porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, or other
dolphin or small whale species.
The label said "whalemeat," but products purchased by
EIA investigators from a supermarket in Osaka were
actually Dall's porpoise, lab analysis found. The meat
contained levels of methyl mercury four times higher
than consumption levels permitted by the government of
Clare Perry, senior campaigner for EIA, said, "Japan's
refusal to abide by the IWC's resolution is simply the
latest example of the Japanese government's disregard
for international conservation agreements and
Japan's Fisheries Agency has called the yearly take of
Dall's porpoises "a sustainable level ... based on
Perry said, "Japan has ignored repeated requests in
the past to lower the numbers killed, refused to take
part in this year's population review of the species,
and has already stated it will not provide information
at next year's meeting of the IWC. Its history of
utter intransigence is unrivaled within the IWC.
Meanwhile the unregulated slaughter of Dall's
"As the population plummets," Perry warned Wednesday,
"hunters are targeting lactating females with calves.
The dependent calves are left to die, and they do not
figure in official catch statistics. The International
Whaling Commission recognizes the urgent need to end
these hunts. Japan should comply with international
opinion and earn some much needed credibility and
respect within the IWC."
Copyright 2001, Environmental News Network
All Rights Reserved
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