The Japanese tried to save their whaling industry by using almost $30 million of tsunami relief money to fund the controversial practice, which was banned commercially by Greenpeace in the 1980s.
The centuries-old tradition of whaling in Japan is under fire by international environmental groups as well as domestic groups. Although, very few still eat whale meat in Japan, according to recent polls, Japan stubbornly maintains a sovereign right to practice whaling.
The Japanese government plans to use $29 million of the national post-tsunami recovery fund on the whaling industry, including adding extra security for whaling fleets, according to Time.
Environmental groups are outraged.
Japan continues to hunt whales, even though the practice was banned commercially. Only Japan, Norway and Iceland participate in whaling.
Japan’s whaling efforts are protected by the International Whaling Commission, which allows them to hunt for scientific purposes.
In a statement, Greenpeace joined other non-governmental organizations in condemning Japanese government’s increased financial support for its “scientific” whaling fleet. They demand that increasingly huge subsidies wasted on this unneeded and unwanted program be scrapped; with falling demand for whale meat and thousands of tons in frozen storage.
“Not only is the whaling industry unable to survive without large increases in government handouts, now it’s siphoning money away from the victims of the March 11 triple disaster, at a time when they need it most,” said Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace Japan. “This is a new low for the shameful whaling industry and the callous politicians that support it”.
“Japan’s whaling program is already a black mark on the country’s international reputation; the government should focus on recovery at home rather than continuing this shameful Antarctic whale hunt,” said Sato. “It is time for the Japanese government to do the right thing by its people, the international community and the environment by committing to drop its financial support for the whaling industry for once and for all”.
Tokyo says that the whaling industry needs the support of the fund to recover much like other fishing communities struggling on the northeast coast of Japan, according to Time.
Residents of towns built on the back of the multi-million dollar industry want to get their businesses running again, after being destroyed in the tsunami.
Japan’s Fisheries Agency told CNN that many people in the area eat whale meat and Japan’s commercial whaling is their hope for recovery.
One of the whaling industries’ biggest foes, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is preparing to follow whaling fleets into the Arctic oceans to harass whaling efforts as much as possible.
The Sea Shepherds chase the whaling ships in speed boats and scuba gear, throwing stink bombs on board and ramming whale ships. The struggle between whalers and the Sea Shepherds is so epic, it is documented on Animal Planet’s show, “Whale Wars.”
Sea Shepherds was founded by Paul Watson, and has taken up vigilante efforts to protect marine life from hunting vessels since 1977.