The Current

Why this conservationist is lauding Japan's return to commercial whaling

Conservationist Paul Watson says that in three decades of a whaling moratorium, Japan has never stopped hunting under the guise of research. He argues that now, the country will at least be restricted to whaling in a much smaller area.

Paul Watson argues that now Japan's whaling will be restricted to a much smaller area

Conservationist Paul Watson, pictured with Japan's primary whaling vessel, the Nisshin Maru, says that there's a silver lining to Japan's move to resume commercial whaling. (Submitted by Sea Shepherd)

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Amid international outcry over Japan's announcement this week that it plans to resume commercial whaling, one whale conservationist says it's actually a "very positive development" for the world's whale populations.

"This move means they will have to withdraw from the southern ocean because they can't do their so-called research whaling, which was bogus anyway," said Paul Watson, founder and executive director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. 

Japan's controversial decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) comes after decades of tension around its continued whale hunts in the Antarctic and scientific research whaling, carried out despite an international moratorium that began in 1986. 

"They're not resuming commercial whaling. They never stopped," said Watson, arguing that now that Japan will restrict its whaling to its own waters and exclusive economic zone, more whales overall will be safe from hunting.

Astrid Fuchs, program lead at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, agrees with Watson — but says the real ramifications for Japan's decision could be political.

Astrid Fuchs, program lead at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is concerned about the precedent being set by Japan for the International Whaling Commission's remaining 89 member countries. (Submitted)

"What we're really concerned about is the precedent this is setting," she said.

"We're just very worried that other countries might follow that lead by Japan," said Fuchs, referring to the 89 remaining IWC member countries. "We're also worried because it's unknown how many whales Japan is intending to take."

To discuss how Japan's decision could ultimately hurt — or help — whale conservation efforts, The Current guest host Piya Chattopadhyay spoke with:

  • Paul Watson, founder and executive director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
  • Astrid Fuchs, program lead at Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Click the 'listen' button at the top of the page to hear the full story. 

Produced by Danielle Carr, Ines Colabrese and Eunice Kim.