Human Interaction

Whale Wars Is Japan’s Scientific Whaling Legitimate?

posted: 05/15/12

Animal Planet presents this feature as a conversation with legal scholars. We draw no conclusions, other than that reasonable legal minds differ on these issues.

DR. CHARLOTTE EPSTEIN: "It's important to recognize that the contribution that the Japanese research on whaling has added to the understanding of whales and to the general knowledge about whales is absolutely uncontested by all scientists. Everyone recognizes the Japanese research has actually done a tremendous, tremendous amount to understand the whales. And over the years, over the decades as well."

DR. TIMOTHY STEPHENS: "Is Japan's claim to scientific whaling widely accepted? Well, no. I think the answer has to be no, that most countries realize that this is commercial whaling in disguise — very cleverly disguised in many respects.

"But at the end of the day, you've got to look at the text of the relevant whaling convention. And the whaling convention says in Article VIII, that whaling has to be for scientific purposes.

"Now in the case of Japan, you've got a massive whaling program, capturing up to a thousand whales a year. And not only one species, the minke whale. They're now moving into other species: the fin whales, humpback whales...

"When you look at the scale of the program, it's very hard to make the argument that it remains scientific, particularly when you can conduct the science nowadays without killing whales. [...] So the Japanese are currently catching about 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean per annum."

DR. BILL HOGARTH: "A lot of countries — including the U.S., for example — do not believe you need to take this many whales for scientific purposes. In this day and time, with the technologies we have, you can do most of the science that you need without having to kill whales, and particularly the large number of whales that are being killed."

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