Japan has been illegally hunting whales for decades despite being under a ban. It has been exploiting a legal loophole. Despite protests from anti-whaling activists, fishermen have set forth into the sea to start hunting.
"I myself want to eat (whale meat) as soon as possible," Yoshifumi Kai, head of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, told AFP on Monday, after the first whale was brought back after a commercial whale hunt. He might be one of the few people in the country who still have an appetite for whale meat, hunting for which has become an issue of national pride.
At a time when more and more beached whales with stomachs full of plastic are showing up across the world, instead of conserving the marine mammals, Japan has lifted a 30-year ban. The country had been following a moratorium while it was part of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) since 1987. The last legal commercial whale hunt took place in 1986. However, Japan never stopped hunting for whales under a legal loophole for all these years. Now, Japan will only be bringing in 227 whales per season, including 52 Minke, 150 Bryde's and 25 sei whales.
The only good that came out of their pulling of IWC is that they will stop commercial hunts in Antartica and will stick to "Japan's territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone", according to BBC.
On Monday, the whale that was brought into the northern Japanese town of Kushiro was caught 42 kilometers southwest off Kushiro. It was 27 feet long. The animal's stomach was cruelly cut open at sea, draining it of blood to keep the meat fresh. It was later hoisted inside a net from the boat to truck. The animal still poured blood when it was brought ashore, but it only brought out the enthusiasm people have for bloodshed there.
"Today is the best day," Kai said. "We were able to catch a good whale. It's going to be delicious," he added. Another connoisseur of whale meat, a 23-year-old whaler, Hideki Abe, from Miyagi region told AFP, "I'm a bit nervous but happy that we can start whaling. I don't think young people know how to cook and eat whale meat anymore. I want more people to try to taste it at least once."
The event was marked by the ceremonial pouring of sake on the whale. "This is a small industry, but I am proud of hunting whales," added Kai. "People have hunted whales for more than 400 years in my home town," he said.
Japan has fought for its right to hunt whales for decades claiming that it is part of their culture. Whaling is also a norm in parts of Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, where the beaches turn red during the hunting season. The renewal of this "culture" in Japan was also marked by the blood of an innocent animal.
Staunch anti-whaling activist, Paul Watson told Straight, “We are delighted to see the end of whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We are delighted that we will soon have a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary and we look forward to continuing to oppose the three remaining pirate whaling nations of Norway, Japan, and Iceland. Whaling as a ‘legal’ industry has ended. All that remains is to mop up the pirates.”
He claims that Japan has been exploiting the legal loopholes and hunting whales for years claiming it was for scientific research in the Southern Ocean, where whaling is banned. It remains to be seen if Japan will stick to the physical boundaries they have specified or will venture further angering activists further.