Over 100 whales to be killed in Japan as country starts controversial commercial whaling season

Several whale-hunting vessels have taken to the waters from Japanese ports with the official start of the commercial whaling season. They plan to catch 120 minke whales in the coming months.

On Saturday, four ships – two in Miyagi Prefecture on the east coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu and two in Aomori Prefecture in its north – departed from ports to coastal Pacific waters. A fifth vessel will join them later, leaving from Hokkaido, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported. 

We would like to provide fresh and delicious whales for everyone who is waiting,” Nobuyuki Ito, president of a whaling company in Miyagi Prefecture told the agency.

During this third season of commercial whaling, which controversially relaunched after a decades-long ban, hunters expect to catch 120 minke whales. The species is a principal target of the whaling industry. Some 25,000 of the mammals are estimated to be living in the Northwest Pacific ocean.

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Japan has previously pulled out of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a body dedicated to the conservation of the marine mammals, and resumed its whale-hunting operations in July 2019. Commercial whaling has been banned by the IWC for over three decades. Very few nations around the world allow the controversial practice, with Japan and Norway being among the most criticized states for permitting the killing of the huge mammals.

Earlier this year, Norway’s government gave the green light to kill over 1,200 minke whales this year, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity (WDC). Last year, more than 500 whales were killed in its waters, WDC said, adding that, despite falling demand for whale meat, local officials “strongly promote” its consumption. On Saturday, a petition to the Norwegian government and the European Commission was launched, demanding “to end the whale slaughter and to… close ports to Norwegian whale meat shipments.” Nearly three million people have supported the initiative so far.

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