Greenpeace yesterday criticized Japanese plans to boost the number of whales it kills this year and charged that commercial whalers were hunting illegally in an Antarctic sanctuary.
“The Japanese whaling industry plans to double its illegal slaughter of whales in spite of the global ban on whale killing,” Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando said at a press conference.
He said endangered species of whale, such as the humpback, are among those to be hunted.
Japan and other nations agreed to a moratorium on whaling in 1985, but Japan continues to hunt whales under an exception allowing for scientific research.
The country has announced its intention to kill 935 minke whales and 10 fin whales this hunting season in the Antarctic or Southern Ocean for what it describes as scientific research.
Critics argue that the whaling exceeds any legitimate research needs. Greenpeace also is concerned that the Antarctic whaling will take place within the bounds of a Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission in December 1994.
The Japanese government has said openly that “the purpose of ‘research’ whaling is to pave the way for the resumption of large-scale commercial whaling in the Antarctic,” Greenpeace charged in a press release yesterday.
Bloomberg news reported that 17 member nations of the whaling commission issued a written protest, delivered to Tokyo yesterday, that urged Japan to “cease all its lethal scientific research on whales.”
The environmental watchdog group said the Japanese whaling industry has reorganized itself to take advantage of the research loophole.
The Japanese Embassy did not return a call requesting comment on the charges.
Gavin Carter, an adviser to the Institute of Cetacean Research, a nonprofit Japanese research organization, said Japanese quotas for whale kills are well below the mammals’ reproductive rates.
“The purpose of this research,” said Mr. Carter, “is to create a knowledge bank, which the government can then use to facilitate a regulated whaling industry.”
Greenpeace said Japan sets “larger and larger annual quotas” for the industry. The total of 935 minke whales permitted to be killed this year is up from 330 whales in 1991.
Mr. Carter urged critics of commercial whaling to be sensitive to other nations’ cultural differences, noting that Japanese have “used whales for centuries. They eat the whole thing. They use every part.”
“Who are we to tell them what to eat, or what not to kill?” he asked.