How Many More Whales Must Japan Kill to Find Out What They Already Know They Eat?

On January 23, the Australia newspaper the Daily Telegraph ran an article under the heading "Japan's Lies to Justify Whaling."

The Japanese government and whaling industry have been claiming that their whaling in the Antarctic and in the North Pacific is necessary for the pursuit of scientific research on whale populations and behavior.

It is an argument that few outside of Japan given any credence to, especially the scientific community.

Whale expert Nick Gales, from the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart, said the information Japan is collecting from whales they kill is useless.

"We don't need that type of science data to manage whale stocks," Dr Gales said.

Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo councilor Dan Goodman claims Australia, New Zealand, and other anti-whaling nations should "strongly support" Japan's commitment to scientific research.

Japan announced at last year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that this summer it would double its slaughter of piked whales (minke) to 935 and target 10 endangered fin whales. In 2007-08, Japan will raise its self-imposed kill quotas to include 935 piked whales, 50 fin whales, and 50 humpbacks whales.

Mr. Goodman said Japan had to kill the whales because certain kinds of data - including how old whale populations are, how old whales are when they reach sexual maturity, how long whales live for, and what they eat - cannot be obtained using non-lethal methods.

"These are the kinds of data required to improve management measures for the resumption of commercial whaling," Mr. Goodman said. "Of course the anti-whaling scientists don't believe this kind of data is required because they do not want to see a resumption of commercial whaling."

Dr Gales, who is also head of Australia's delegation to the scientific committee for the IWC, said after years of research the Japanese should have concluded by now that piked whales eat krill.

"They're asking for support for science that has no support." He said.

The "scientific research" is yielding hundreds of millions of dollars in profit to the Japanese whaling industry. Without this profit, there would be no "research"

"Japan is fooling no one with their lies," said Captain Paul Watson. "The only research they are doing is marketing research. They have not published a single peer-reviewed credible paper on their so-called research. We know what the whales eat so how many more thousands of whale stomachs and intestines must they rip open to find out what they already know they eat? They could obtain all the DNA data they need from non-lethal tissue samples taken with biopsy darts. One of the most laughable ‘research' goals is to discover if whale populations are in decline. The answer is obvious - they are in decline because of Japanese ‘research.'  The only thing they are discovering with their mass slaughter of the whales is profit from the sale of the ‘research' materials to markets and restaurants. This is bogus science and it should be condemned by legitimate scientists in Japan because it makes a humiliating mockery of the Japanese scientific community."

Japan should do some DNA research in Japanese fish markets where endangered whales including orcas and humpbacks are being sold disguised as piked whales.

Next year, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society intends to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica to do some research of our own. We need to research more effective law enforcement measures to shut down this criminal operation that is posing as a "research" project.

Next year, the stakes are higher because Japan will target 40 more endangered fin whales and 50 endangered Humpback whales in addition to another 935 piked whales.

"The Japanese are playing nations like Australia and New Zealand for fools," said Captain Watson. "They are getting quite a chuckle I imagine, every time some foreign politician defends Japanese ‘research' or expresses political and diplomatic impotence at stopping it."

The full story can be read at the Daily Telegraph's website.