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Japan's 'New' Whaling Plan Deemed 'A Slap In The Face Of The International Community'

<p><a class="checked-link" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minke_whale#mediaviewer/File:Minke_Whale_(NOAA).jpg">NOAA</a></p>

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:

(The Government of Japan)

Under the new campaign announced this week, two more areas will be added to the area where Japanese fleets stalk whales. According to Astrid Fuchs, a campaign and programs manager at the organization Whale and Dolphin Conservation, this will contribute to a considerable increase in the "research" area.

"The new proposal frankly is a slap in the face of the International Community," Fuchs told The Dodo. "What we now need is a decisive and sharp diplomatic response by the whale friendly nations."

Despite the claims to "research," Clapham notes that the whale meat is sold commercially in Japan - in fact, its sale is legal under the IWC's scientific whaling provision, the same loophole that allows Japan to whale for research in the first place.

Humane Society International Vice President Kitty Block agreed, pointing out that the new campaign is still at odds with the ICJ court ruling handed down in March.

"Despite the ICJ decision condemning the nation's so-called scientific program, Japan is still trying to explain the inexplicable and defend the indefensible," she said. "The hunt is for commercial purposes - not science."