Japanese Whaling Criticized

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Japan has been criticized for continuing to hunt whales. A group of Japanese hunters is trying to catch more than one-hundred whales in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Japan says the whaling expedition is for scientific purposes. But environmental groups say the whales are being killed for their meat.

Japan's Fisheries Agency sent out the whaling ships in July. It says the goal is to study the whales' environment, diet, and movements. Japanese officials say they need to know if the large whale populations are eating too many fish that are also sought by fishermen. They say the whales must be killed in order to gather the information. After the study, the animal's meat will be sold in Japanese markets.

The International Whaling Commission opposed the hunt. It said the stated scientific goal is not a good enough reason to kill the whales.

The hunters are trying to catch three kinds of whales. They are minke, Bryde's and sperm whales. The minke whale population was once in danger because of overhunting. The International Whaling Commission says the population has since recovered and is no longer endangered.

But the larger Bryde's and sperm whales have not been hunted for more than ten years. The United States lists them as endangered species.

The United States and Britain strongly oppose killing the whales. They have sent letters of protest to the Japanese government. The United States is threatening to order trade restrictions against Japan if the whale hunt continues. Last month, ambassadors and representatives of fifteen countries gathered at the Japanese Foreign Ministry to protest the whale hunting.

Environmental activists say Japan's decision to continue whale hunting violates a worldwide ban on whale hunting for profit. The ban went into effect in Nineteen-Eighty-Six. However, Japan has continued to kill about five-hundred minke whales each year for what it calls scientific research. Activists say Japan is only calling the current effort a scientific study as an excuse to keep killing whales. Many fear that the hunting will cause whale populations to decrease again.

Japanese officials say they will not stop the whale hunt. They say the research is important and necessary.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English