For the first time in over 30 years, two minke whales were harpooned by Japanese whaling boats and brought back to port for commercial purposes.
Over the last three decades, whales were protected by the 1986 International Whaling Commission moratorium that banned commercial whaling. Japan had joined the Commission in 1988 and agreed to only hunt whales for scientific purposes.
However, in December of last year, Japan withdrew from the Commission and decided to resume commercial hunting in its territorial waters and economic zones, CNN reported.
According to the outlet, a fleet of five whaling boats left Kushiro port in northern Japan on Monday and another fleet of deep-water boats was scheduled to leave the southern port of Shimonoseki.
Iceland and Norway are the only other nations who allow commercial whaling, and the Japanese Fisheries Agency is permitting 227 to be caught and killed for commercial purposes from July 1 through December 31. Common whales in Japanese waters include minke and Bryde’s whales, according to Live Science, which are listed as “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
Japan’s withdrawal from the Commission comes after years of pressure from the country’s whaling industry and prevalence of whaling tradition in Japan, Reuters reported.
In the 2017-2018 whaling season, Japan caught and killed 596 whales with a “scientific research” permit from the Commission.
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