World's Leading Whale Scientists Call Japan's Whaling Program "Unscientific"

Thirty-two scientists from the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) Scientific Committee - the world's premier whale experts - jointly denounced Japan's revised whaling program as "unscientific."

In a letter to the editor in Nature, the IWC scientists argue that the science behind Japan's lethal whaling program "has not passed a reasonable standard of peer review."

Japan's whaling fleet is currently in the Southern Ocean with a self-allocated quota to kill 333 minke whales this year under the guise of "scientific research." But Japan's whaling program is anything but scientific, according to the United Nations' top court, which found Japan's whaling program illegal and ordered Japan to revoke all its whaling permits in the Southern Ocean.

Although Japan originally agreed to abide by the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) decision, it later renounced the ICJ's jurisdiction over whaling and issued a new "scientific research" plan that allows its whalers to kill nearly 4,000 minke whales over the next 12 years.

Thumbnail image for Japanese whaling - mom and calf, wikipedia cropped 2.jpg

A mother and calf being loaded onto a Japanese whaling vessel, 2008. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The IWC Scientific Committee twice reviewed Japan's revised plan and found that Japan failed to offer enough scientific evidence to justify killing whales.

Yet, as with the ICJ opinion, Japan simply ignored the advice of the IWC's scientific experts. As the recent IWC scientists' letter notes, "Japan claims to have 'sincerely taken into account' the IWC [Scientific Committee's] opinion, but, as on previous occasions, has failed to alter its plans in any meaningful way and is proceeding to kill whales under a self-determined quota."

Many governments have also criticized Japan's flagrant disregard of the law and science. In a recent Joint Statement on Whaling and Safety at Sea, the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States "urged Japan to respect the International Whaling Commission's procedures and the advice of its Expert Review Panel and Scientific Committee," further emphasizing that the "science is clear: all information necessary for management and conservation of whales can be obtained through non-lethal methods." In addition, 33 nations denounced Japan's resumption of research whaling last December.

Nearly 500 scientists from around the world specializing in non-lethal research and conservation also sent a letter to the IWC last year stating that Japan's scientific whaling is "seriously undermining science."

The most recent IWC scientists' letter goes even further, concluding that the IWC's current review procedure is a "waste of time" - primarily because Japan continues to ignore it - and calling on the IWC to develop a new process of scientific review.

Scientists, governments, and World Court justices all confirm that there is no scientific justification for Japan's so-called "scientific whaling" program. Click here if you agree that it's time to stop Japan's illegal whale hunt.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Senior Policy Analyst, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land and Wildlife Program

Join Us