Japan moves to abolish whale sanctuary
Just five years after the creation of a whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean by an overwhelming majority at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japan has tabled a motion to abolish it. The sanctuary includes the minke whales of the southern hemisphere, the only remaining population of great whales in the Antarctic still at a level close to their natural abundance. "This is a disgraceful move by Japan", said Greenpeace Australia campaigner Darren Gladman. "It exposes its desire to resume the distant water whaling that has devastated whale populations." "Japan's preparations are clear for all to see — the bogus `scientific' whaling and its investment in new equipment. "Internationally the public has rejected the killing [of] whales. The Southern Ocean Sanctuary needs to be expanded into a Global Whale Sanctuary, not abolished", said Mr Gladman. Japan's motion has been tabled for next month's International Whaling Commission meeting, which will be held in Grenada from 24-28 May. "This proposal shows Japan's true intention is to expand its whaling operations", said Mr Gladman. Japan catches whales in the Antarctic in the name of "scientific research", despite repeated calls by the IWC to stop. All meat from the operation is sold on the commercial market and serves to keep the market alive. Last year the whaling industry built its first new whale catcher in 26 years, calling it "a symbol of hope for the reopening of whaling". When the IWC was formed in 1946, it inherited a whale sanctuary dating from 1937 and covering one quarter of the Antarctic. The sanctuary was suspended in 1955 and within a year the area was producing large catches. Within a few years the former sanctuary area, along with the rest of the Antarctic, saw a catastrophic crash in whale populations. The IWC had reached near unanimous agreement (with only Japan dissenting) on the objectives for the current sanctuary. They are the recovery and monitoring of whale populations, study of the effects of not whaling on whales and research on the effects of environmental change on whale populations. "Sanctuary from whaling is the best way to protect the great whales", said Mr Gladman. "The Southern Ocean Sanctuary was established with overwhelming support and great hopes in 1994 — the whales of the Antarctic need study, not whaling. We call on the Government of Japan to withdraw its motion to abolish this unique protection for whales", said Mr Gladman.