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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs > Releases > Fact Sheets > 2002 East Asian and Pacific Affairs Fact Sheets
Fact Sheet
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce
Washington, DC
May 15, 2002

Japanese Scientific Whaling

In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) instituted a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling to become effective in 1985/86. Shortly after phasing out its commercial whaling program, Japan unilaterally elected to resume whaling in the southern hemisphere under the guise of "scientific whaling," to study stock structure. In 1994 Japan expanded its activities to the North Pacific. The products of this research program are sold to Japanese consumers.

In recent years, Japan has claimed that the stomach contents of whales must be examined to understand predator/prey relationships in the ocean ecosystem, and to collect evidence relevant to its hypothesis that whales eat too many fish and are causing major declines in fish stocks. The United States, many IWC member countries, and the IWC's scientific committee dispute this claim. The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization and other fishery management organizations and scientific bodies have stated that the decline of world fish stocks is primarily due to overfishing by man. Nevertheless, Japan persists in this claim.

While Japan initially focused its lethal research on minke whales, the smallest of the great whales, in April 2000 it expanded its program in the North Pacific to include the lethal take of two additional species, sperm and Bryde's whales. Japan's research program now results in the killing of up to 600 whales-540 minke whales, 50 Bryde's whales, and 10 sperm whales per year. More than 6,200 whales have been killed since Japan began research whaling in 1988.

In late February 2002, Japan announced a proposal to expand its lethal scientific whaling program in the North Pacific to include 50 sei whales and an additional 50 minke whales. The sei whale is considered a Protection Stock in the IWC and is listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Japan has sought a commercial whaling quota of 50 minke whales for more than a decade; under its new proposal, would-be coastal whalers will become research whalers.

The United States and many other nations continue to be deeply opposed to Japan's lethal scientific whaling program. The United States particularly objects to the proposed expansion to take a new species of whale in 2002, and, along with 17 other IWC members, has formally called upon Japan to withdraw its proposal to expand the program.



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