Japan kills more than 50 whales in Antarctic protected area

Japanese whalers have killed more than 50 minke whales in an Antarctic protected area this year thanks to a ‘scientific research’ loophole, the WWF has revealed today.


The NGO said it discovered Japan’s “five week killing spree” after analysis of a paper from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) revealed whaling activity in protected waters between 22 January and 28 February.

A group of Mink whales were last sighted along the search paths of three Japanese whaling ships in the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) before they were killed, just two months after the zone came into force.

The disclosure comes on the opening day of the 67th IWC meeting in Brazil, with the WWF now calling on conservation bodies to work with Japan’s government to close the scientific research loophole.

“It is a travesty that Japan can go into an ocean sanctuary and harpoon whales,” said Chris Johnson, senior manager at the WWF’s Antarctic program. “The Ross Sea MPA is supposed to have special protection.

“People around the world who celebrated this historic ocean sanctuary will be shocked by the killing of whales within its boundaries – only the IWC can close the loophole that enables whales to be harpooned in a protected area.”

The Ross Sea MPA is one of the world’s largest protected areas and was agreed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which consists of 24 member states.

The MPA helps protect many of the thousands of species that live in the Southern Ocean, including Antarctic krill, emperor penguins and Weddell seals.

However, the CCAMLR doesn’t control whaling in the region, with Japan allowed to grant itself a special permit that could lead to the killing of 333 Antarctic minke whales each year in the Southern Ocean until 2027.

“Krill and thousands of other species are protected in this part of the Ross Sea, so it is shocking and absurd that minke whales are not,” WWF polar chief adviser, Rod Downie, said.

“The IWC and CCAMLR must work together and take immediate action to close these loopholes currently being exploited by Japan to ensure this ocean sanctuary is protected for future generations.” 


Image credit | Chris Johnson/WWF


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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