Japan has given the world green cars and technological marvels.
It wouldn't be a stretch for it to lead the 21st century protecting
the world's oceans and whales.
The antiquated and brutal whaling industry is dying, yet the
world is on the brink of a return to commercial whaling. This
backward step, however, can be prevented by Japan, the very country
which seems to have precipitated this regression.
In a deal to be brokered this week at the International Whaling
Commission meeting in Morocco, the United States is backing Japan,
Norway, and Iceland in their annual bid to lift the 25-year
moratorium on whale hunting.
Those three nations have previously refused to follow the ban.
The new deal, which would legalize Japan's controversial "scientific
whaling" is an effort to coax them into cooperating by enforcing
Readers weigh in: Is Japan right? Should the IWC ban on
commercial whale hunting be lifted?
Before the implementation of the ban, 38,000 whales were
slaughtered a year; after implementation of the ban, the number
killed dropped to 2,000. Yet the world has only barely begun to
recover some species that were brutally destroyed during centuries
We are only beginning to understand how marine life sustains the
planet. Whales are an intricate and essential part of our marine
planet. Allowing a return, even in part, to commercial whaling would
devastate oceans already under siege by climate change, plastics
pollution, catastrophic oil spills, and rising carbon levels.
Twentieth-century whale research has revealed some startling
facts: humpbacks sing lullabies to their young, blue whales
communicate over thousands of miles, gray whales can live over one
Just this month, there is new evidence that sperm whales offset
the sea's increasing carbon levels by simply defecating. ABC News
reports that "whales can remove about 400,000 tons of carbon from
the atmosphere each year ... making the sperm whale a carbon-
neutral mammal." What else might we discover in the 21st century
about how whales contribute to keeping our seas healthy?
If we return to commercial whaling, we may lose the knowledge
that maintaining the moratorium has given us. Why is Japan looking
backward when we desperately need new ocean conservation?
Japan is utilizing a loophole in the 1986 International Whaling
Commission ban against commercial whaling, to kill hundreds of
whales every year for scientific research. Once a whale is killed,
scientists collect data from the animal's remains then the meat is
sold. Japan maintains that the research is essential for managing
the whale population.
Japan has also cited its long history as a whaling nation and its
historic reliance on whale meat for protein as reasons why it should
be continued to allow to hunt despite the ban. But consumption has
become so negligible that, in 2007, local governments had to
encourage schools to incorporate whale in their lunch programs,
while thousands of tons of whale meat remain stockpiled in freezers,
according to Time Magazine.
Other experts speculate that Japan's refusal to comply with a ban
has to do with the fact that its government just doesn't like to be
told what to do. But Japan has a chance this week to not only save
face on this issue, but take its place as a world leader in ocean