Earlier this year, an international court delivered a blow to Japanese whalers: the country's annual Antarctic whale hunt was deemed unscientific and ordered to come to an end.
Now, according to plans released Tuesday by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, that decision will be shoved aside as a new whaling program is launched in its place. The New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A) states that research on minke whale populations as well as on the Antarctic ecosystem is its motivation:
After giving serious scientific consideration, it has been concluded that age data at the annual scale can be obtained only through lethal sampling methods, and thus lethal methods need to be employed under this program.
The government of Japan filed its plan with the International Whaling Commission (IWC), indicating that it intends to start the program in 2015. It revealed that not only would the territory of its whaling activities be expanding, but that it plans to take 333 minke whales - a lower quota than in previous years. It also claimed that this new campaign is different in scope than its predecessor, a whaling campaign dubbed JARPA II.
But conservationists disagree with the country's claim of scientific research. Dr. Phil Clapham, leader of Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program at NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory, told The Dodo that the new whaling campaign is the same old story with a different name.
"All utterly predictable," said Clapham, who authored a 2014 paper in the journal Marine Policy on Japanese whaling. He added that, like JARPA II, the NEWREP-A campaign will overlap with the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, a 19-million-square-mile area where the IWC has banned all commercial whaling. "It's all lipstick on a pig."
One new addition is the expansion of area - Japan's whaling territory now covers 240 degrees of the Antarctic, according to Clapham. The plan itself shows the previous coverage of JARPA II and JARPA, a whaling campaign that was its predecessor: