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Whales: Japan

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 22 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps he plans to take in response to Japan’s resumption of whaling; (167140)

(2) what his policy is on Japan’s resumption of whaling; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on Japan’s resumption of whaling.

The UK, together with a majority of members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), has consistently criticised Japan for its lethal whaling operations, authorised under special permits (so called ‘scientific’ whaling) and urged Japan to desist from these operations forthwith.

Like most IWC members, we do not believe that lethal scientific research can be justified: there are perfectly adequate non-lethal alternatives which could secure the information required by the IWC for stock assessment and management purposes. The whale meat and other products from this so-called ‘scientific’ whaling are sold domestically in Japanese markets and restaurants. These whaling operations severely hamper international efforts to conserve and protect whales, and clearly demonstrate that these programmes are driven by commercial, rather than scientific considerations.

Japan’s proposal to kill 50 humpback whales, a species that remains on the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) List of Threatened Species, is nothing less than outrageous. We will continue to make our opposition to whaling known to Japan at every appropriate opportunity, and argue that Japanese action undermines the credibility of the IWC as an effective organisation for the conservation of whale stocks worldwide.

Whaling is not an issue on which the European Union (EU) exercises competence. As such, it is not generally a subject for discussion at meetings of EU Ministers.

At official level, we do have regular contact with other like-minded countries, including those EU countries who are, like the UK, parties to the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling and thus members of the IWC.