Japanese Whalers Making Big Money on Illegal Whale Meat

The BP oil spill may have killed a baby whale, but there are much bigger problems for endangered whales around the world.

Japanese, Norwegian and Icelandic whalers have been whaling unsustainably and illegally for years despite an international moratorium on whaling. Rather than address this problem with stronger laws and enforcement, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is discussing lifting the moratorium and replacing it with a whaling quota this week.

Japan says it will withdraw from the IWC if this is done, while Australia and New Zealand are threatening to sue Japan in the International Court of Justice if it continues whaling.

Image Credit: g-na Japanese whalers kill whales and sell whale meat illegally

Japanese whalers kill whales and sell whale meat illegally

While the argument by Japanese whalers has been that they are doing the whaling for scientific research, the question that always come to mind for me is, “you need to kill thousands and thousands of whales for scientific research?!

It is commonly assumed that whaling is not just being done for that purpose, and an ex-whaler has recently confirmed that assumption for us.

The whaler, calling himself Kujira-san (Mr. Whale), told Guardian News that it is common for whalers to take home 5-10 boxes of whale meat and make a hefty profit off of them. The money they make from this is often even more than their salaries.

Mr. Whale said that whalers buy new houses and cars with the money they make selling this whale meat.

He mentioned that he knew of one whaler taking home 40 boxes of whale meat.

In addition, the ships would often catch more whales than needed, strip them of their most valuable body parts, and then throw them overboard again. Scientific research, eh?

Even before we arrived in the Antarctic Ocean,” he says of a recent expedition, “the more experienced whalers would talk about taking whale meat home to sell. It was an open secret. Even officials from the Institute of Cetacean Research [a quasi-governmental body that organises Japan’s whaling programme] on the ship knew what was happening, but they turned a blind eye to it.”

Kujira, who worked aboard the Nisshin Maru mother ship, saw crew members helping themselves to prime cuts of whale meat and packing them into boxes they would mark with doodles or pseudonyms so they could identify them when the vessel reached port. “They never wrote their real names on the boxes,” he said.

A Greenpeace investigation has helped a lot in addressing this corruption, but I think it is sure to continue as long as whaling is permitted (and whaling moratoria are not strongly enforced).

Nonetheless, the IWC vote next week could result in whaling quotas being set based on politics not science and could result in a tremendous tragedy for the largest animals on Earth.

If you are opposed to this proposal, join Pierce Brosnan and others in telling President Obama you don’t support this new whaling proposal. The US is a key actor in this discussion and the final decision.