First whales killed as Japan resumes commercial hunts

First whales killed as Japan resumes commercial hunts

The quota includes 52 minke wales, as well as 150 Bryde's whales and 25 sei whales.

Many animal rights activists sharply criticize Japan's resumption of whale hunting.

Japan's Fisheries Agency set a quota at 227 whales for this year.

Japan will want to prove to the world it can whale sustainably but the long-term future of whaling is uncertain.

Whaling is defended in Japan as a tradition to be preserved. "I don't think young people know how to cook and eat whale meat anymore".

"If we had more whale available, we'd eat it more", said Sachiko Sakai, a 66-year-old taxi driver in Kushiro, a gritty port city on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where five whaling ships were waved out of harbor in a brief ceremony early on Monday.

Japan's annual supplies of about 4,000 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes amount to 40 gm to 50 gm for each citizen, or about the weight of half an apple. Whaling supporters admit that building demand will take time. The availability of whale meat in the local markets confirmed suspicions of commercial whaling being conducted under the guise of research. Until now, the country had been claiming whaling for scientific purposes, while it was common knowledge that cetaceans ended up on sellers' stalls.

Japan cancelled its 2014-15 hunt, only to resume it the following season under a new programme that it said had genuine scientific value. An announcement with hints of nationalism more than economic interest, because the Japanese consume nearly no more whale meat. Ishikawa was formerly involved in scientific whaling program as leader of a hunting team.

Japan suspended commercial whaling activities in 1988 and instead began research whaling.

Tokyo pledged to obey the global whaling moratorium imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986.

However, exceptions exist. Norway and Iceland both whale commercially.

Since 1987, Japan has killed between 200 and 1,200 whales each year, saying this was to monitor stocks to establish sustainable quotas. Photos later showed a boat returning with a minke whale. Some environmentalists have argued that the resumption of whaling will decrease as both its consumption and availability will be hampered.

It became a prominent force in the country after Imperial Japan's defeat in World War II, when whale provided cheap protein for a rapidly growing country. Meanwhile, environmentalists, marine life conservationists and celebrities from across fields have come down upon Japan heavily.

Japan's return to commercial whaling has created an worldwide outcry.

Ramage's words reinforce the idea that the practice of whaling is, quite simply, a lot of work and a lot of damage done for something that benefits society and economy very little. Japan mostly took Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) here, but this species is not considered endangered. The agency set the number after the figure for whales caught under research whaling through June was subtracted from the target of 383.

In fact, some defenders of whaling argue that whale meat has a smaller carbon footprint than pork or beef.



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