Foreign Policy Digital

Japan’s Scientific Whaling Ruse Is Over

Tokyo’s pullout from international treaties may actually help save whales.

The government of Japan announced the country’s departure from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in December 2018, along with its intention to resume commercial whaling—which the IWC has forbidden since 1986—within its own coastal waters. The international reaction to this news began with condemnation, but Japan’s move has at least the virtue of good faith. If whaling is going to happen—and it will, at least for the foreseeable future—it may be better that it takes place honestly than under the false flag of science.

Japan previously stayed within the IWC by taking advantage of an exception that allowed whaling for scientific research. Many , , and viewed this as a sham, a thinly veiled commercial whaling operation conducted under the banner of science. Sometimes this “banner” was a literal one: Japanese were painted with the word RESEARCH (in English) in bold, capital letters along their hulls, and crewmembers were sometimes holding signs with statements such as “We’re collecting tissue samples” next to whale carcasses being flensed by their colleagues on deck. These statements, along with the presented by Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research, failed to convince many in the international community that Japan’s “scientific” whaling activities were being conducted in good faith.

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