despite criticism from environmental defenders, Japan does not intend to give up this controversial fishery

Japan has just built a new flagship, the “Kangei Maru”, to hunt whales. This ship can hold up to 800 tonnes of frozen meat.



Reading time: 2 min

THE "Kangei Maru"an ultra-modern Japanese whaling factory ship, leaves port after the ship's launching ceremony in the city of Shimonoseki, Japan, on May 21, 2024. (YUICHI YAMAZAKI / AFP)

On Tuesday, May 21, Japan launched its new flagship to hunt whales; the Japanese government even wants to revive the consumption of cetacean meat. The Kangei Maru is the first whaling flagship inaugurated in 73 years in the country. Like a floating factory: 113 meters long, 21 wide, 9,200 tonnes and 100 crew members, half of whom are responsible for cutting and preparing the whales directly on board. The boat can hold up to 800 tonnes of frozen meat and will hunt for several months along the northeastern coast of Japan. Departure is from Shimonoseki, the country’s main whaling port. The current Prime Minister, like his predecessor, is from this region, which partly explains why the Japanese government is so attached to this hunt.

Tokyo boasts a centuries-old tradition, but this controversial fishery is increasingly difficult to defend. The Japanese consume 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of whale meat per year compared to 200,000 in the 1960s. This has not stopped the government from relaunching hunting since 2019 by leaving the International Whaling Commission to end the moratorium on fishing cetacean trade. It has been applied for more than 30 years, not without hypocrisy, because hunting has in fact never been abandoned in Japan, under the guise of scientific research. The country is today the only one with Norway and Iceland to authorize such fishing.

However, certain species of whales hunted by Tokyo are very vulnerable. Japanese whalers hunt three very specific ones: the Minke whale and the Bryde’s whale first. They are not considered threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning they have relatively well recovered from decades of intensive fishing for their oil or baleen. But Japanese whalers also fish for Boreal whales, 50,000 individuals throughout the world and in “hazard” of extinction according to the IUCN. As for the classified fin whale “vulnerable”, Japan is preparing to authorize its fishing. It is the second largest mammal in the world, behind the blue whale.

source site-23