Celebrations, rallies sponsored by the government and gatherings of nostalgics greeted today, July 1, the return to Japan, after more than 30 years, of whaling for commercial purposes. Eight boats sailed from the ports of Shimonoseki, in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi, and in Kushiro, in Hokkaido, north of the archipelago, greeted by local residents in celebration, intrigued by so much Western media attention.
On June 30th it was the last day of Japan's accession to the International Commission on Cetacean Hunting (Iwc), a decision formalized by Tokyo six months in advance after exhausting negotiations within the organization that did not look favorably on the capture of cetaceans for commercial purposes, for reasons related to the sustainability of the species. Theses disputed by the Japanese authorities, which instead argue that the mammal population in the meantime has grown sufficiently. According to the Japanese authorities, the current pace of hunting is justifiable for another 100 years without creating environmental upheavals.
The Japanese National Fisheries Agency has set a catch limit of 227 whales from July to December, and from 2020 onwards the annual quotas will reach a maximum of 383.
The number, analysts note, is significantly lower than the load of 637 cetaceans captured under the heading of 'scientific research' in 2018. At the ships' departure ceremony at Shimonoseki, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa hoped that consumption of whale meat could increase sales. The town was the main hub for the distribution of whale meat starting from the Edo Period, between 1603 and 1867. Before the Second World War, local companies managed large distribution centers for a food then considered cheap and rich in protein, in times of economic hardship. With the suspension of the hunting for commercial purposes imposed by the Iwc in 1988, the port and the entire community have recorded a constant impoverishment, which only scientific fishing has failed to reverse. But hopes of restaurateurs could be disappointed, observers warn.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, annual whale consumption peaked in 1962 with 2.4 kg per capita, double the amount of beef and chicken. From 1987 onwards, however, demand remained almost at the zero level. In the past the market price was decided by the Cetacean Research Institute, together with other entities that conducted marine analyzes, but with the resumption of commercial fishing the price of meat will be determined by consumer demand. A dynamic that will be influenced by the heated debate of environmental associations and the international community, which try to make more and more breakthrough on the new generations. The Australian Marine Conservation Society has criticized Tokyo's decision describing the practice "out of the norm, backward and cruel." For his part, the head of the Kushiro fishermen's agency, Shigeto Hase, instead stirred up the crowd: "We have always used whale meat during our existence, and we want these customs to be handed down to the next generation."