Whaling in Japan under the microscope again

(Getty)
(Getty)

Japanese whaling is set to come under intense scrutiny once more, as the International Whaling Commission (IWC) prepares to meet for its 66th annual conference in Slovenia.

Despite the IWC ban on commercial whaling in 1986, over 2000 whales are killed each year - more than half of those by Japanese whalers.

Norway and Iceland round out the top three, but with significantly smaller operations.

Those three countries hunt under various loopholes - most notably Japan, which claims its hunts are for "scientific research".

In 2015, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to stop all whaling - but it still hasn't.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has says "it's regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood".

The Japanese Agricultural Minister has even called international anti-whaling sentiments "a cultural attack, a kind of prejudice against Japanese culture".

Other whales at risk are fin, sperm, humpback, common minke, and the sei - all of which are considered endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Having these species in our ocean provides an important carbon cycle - and their dung even brings nutrients to the ocean, which stimulates the growth of phytoplankton for fish creating more food.

And while the demand for meat is falling, government funding in countries like Japan helps keep the industry going.

A number of others countries have very limited whale hunts - like Greenland and Canada - but much of that is carried out in small numbers by indigenous hunters living in those regions.

For our part, New Zealand stopped all whaling in 1964 - and strongly condemns it, alongside the US and Australia.

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