IWC Tosses Japanese Whaling Plans into Limbo

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

File photo: A newly caught minke whale is hauled up the slipway of Japanese factory whaling ship the Nisshin Maru, while harpoon ship the Yushin Maru No 2 sails close behindFile photo: A newly caught minke whale is
hauled up the slipway of Japanese factory
whaling ship the Nisshin Maru, while harpoon
ship the Yushin Maru No 2 sails close behind
Photo: Sea Shepherd/Adam Lau
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) ruled Friday that Japan has not provided sufficient scientific data to support its ridiculous claim that the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean is legitimate scientific research.

They have asked Japan for further data to justify their request for IWC permission to kill whales under the pretense of scientific whaling.

Last year the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that there was no scientific justification for Japanese so-called “research” whaling.

Last year the International Whaling Commission followed up on this ruling and said no to Japan’s pretense to kill whales. No whales were killed by Japan in the Southern Ocean for the 2014-2015 season, the first time zero whales were slain in Antarctic waters since 1945.

Will Japan now spit in the face of international law and public opinion? Will they attempt to send their highly subsidized whaling fleet south again in December to target 333 Minke whales in the internationally established Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary? Will they do so in violation of the international moratorium on commercial whaling? Will they continue to be in contempt of the Australian Federal Court?

Or knowing that they have had some success in the U.S. Courts, will they tell the ICJ and the IWC to bugger off?

Sea Shepherd prevented Japan from taking more than 6,000 whales since 2005. The Japanese have surrendered their demands to kill humpbacks and fins. They have even decided to lower their kill quota from 935 Minke whales to 333 if they return to the coast of Antarctica with their death machines.

But Japanese pride and the inability to back down in the face of international condemnation is goading them onward into making irrational decisions that have absolutely no positive economic consequences.

File photo: Blood pours out of the scuppers of Japanese factory whaling ship the Nisshin Maru after a newly caught minke whale is butchered on deckFile photo: Blood pours out of the scuppers of Japanese factory whaling ship the Nisshin Maru after a newly caught minke whale is butchered on deck
Photo: Sea Shepherd/Adam Lau
Japan’s whaling can only survive if backed by huge government subsidies and a willingness to be seen as a whale-killing pariah by much of the world’s population.

Ignoring the verdict of the ICJ will not help Japan if their territorial disputes with China over islands in the South China Sea end up before the ICJ. A nation that gives the finger to the ICJ will have a hard time convincing the ICJ that they have any respect for international law at all.

Perhaps they just can’t help themselves. Japan never actually admitted to surrendering at the end of the Pacific War. Emperor Hirohito never used the word “surrender.” He said, "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage.”

The intention of the military was that all Japanese citizens should choose death to protect the dignity of Japan and the sanctity of imperial Japanese ideology. According to the generals, the 100 million Japanese civilians should embrace a death that would be beautiful in its tragedy, “like shattered jewels.”

The military went to great efforts in their attempts to prevent the Emperor from ending the war, even to the point of invading the palace to search for the recording of the Emperor’s speech. The Emperor had recorded the speech on a phonograph record that had been smuggled out of the palace in a basket of women’s underwear and later broadcast to the nation.

Emperor Hirohito thus saved his people and ended a national insanity that had taken 20 million Asian lives, 3.1 million Japanese lives and 60,000 Western ally lives. It was fought literally as a “holy war.”

Unfortunately the kind of pride that led Japan into such a senseless orgy of violence continued after the war with the denial of the “rape of Nanking,” the denial of the sexual abuse and killings of Korean and Chinese “comfort” women, and the denial of war crimes. Japanese school text books simply glossed over the atrocities as if they never happened.

The ultra-nationalist movement survives today with all its racist attitudes of superiority.

And unfortunately the issue of whaling has become a symbol of Japanese nationalistic intransigence. To give up whaling is a form of surrender and surrender is not a world the Japanese have ever really acknowledged.

Just as the Japanese civilians were asked to die for an insane form of ultra-nationalism, the whales are being sacrificed today to uphold Japanese pride. Today it is the whales and the dolphins that are the “shattered jewels” of the sea.

Hot cetacean blood has been poured steamily into the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean as a sacrifice to this pride. Knives slash the throats of dolphins in Taiji as their screams echo across the cove in a ritual sacrificial slaughter that screams out to the world, “We shall never surrender; we will do as we please, if for no other reason than to proclaim our contempt for those who brought dishonor and humiliation to the nation.”

Today those who dare to defend the lives of whales and dolphins are viewed as enemies of Japan and treated accordingly.

I know this first-hand, as Japan uses its economic and political power to persecute me personally.

And for this the dolphins must endure the unendurable and the whales must suffer the insufferable, just as the Emperor said those exact words to his people at the beginning of the American occupation.

To be fair, it was General Douglas MacArthur who organized Japan’s post-war whaling fleet as a means to provide cheap protein to the Japanese people. But what was ordered by the Americans 65 years ago has somehow come to be embraced as “tradition.”

The truth is that Japan does not have a tradition of whaling prior to the 20th Century. The first commercial shore-based whaling operations in Japan were established in 1911 by Norwegians and employed Norwegians.

There were indeed a few places where whaling had been practiced. In Wakayama and up north by the indigenous Ainu people in Hokkaido. Strangely, Japan outlawed traditional Ainu hunting of whales and fishing for salmon and at the same time proclaimed that the traditional whaling operations in Wakayama were now the traditions of a nation that did not know much about whaling prior to World War II.

To say that because whaling was practiced in a few villages in Wakayama is the foundation for a national tradition is like saying the Texas rattlesnake round-up or the Higgins Pennsylvania pigeon shoot is a national tradition in the United States.

Joji Morishita is the primary mouthpiece for the whaling industry. He defends whaling religiously and spares no expense on propaganda in order to defend it.

"When we hear that the rest of the world is against Japan, we say: ‘Wait, wait. What is the rest of the world?' As a government, we cannot say to our communities: ‘Give up your way of life because the Western powers and some activists say this is an intelligent animal.’ We are prepared to protect the way of life for our small communities."

And yet he acknowledges that Japan does not extend the same principle to its own indigenous Ainu community.

How much longer will the whales and dolphins endure the unendurable by dying for the sin of Japanese pride? How much longer must they be viciously slaughtered in the name of nationalism?

We are not asking for Japan to surrender. We are simply saying that the merciless slaughter of whales and dolphins is not to Japan's advantage.

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