Press release

Japan Announces Whaling Expansion: Death Sentence for North Pacific Fin Whales

June 11, 2024

News is breaking today that the Japanese government has confirmed its decision to allow the killing of fin whales. Japan’s Fisheries Agency Council has just approved a proposal to add fin whales to the three species previously approved for commercial whaling. The self-allocated quota for this year is 59 animals. 

Mark Simmonds OBE, Director of Science at OceanCare commented:  

“This confirmation that Japan will now kill fin whales is deeply dismaying. There is no pressing need for this new cruel take of whales whatsoever. OceanCare calls on the nations of the world to make the strongest possible protest to Japan about this.  

“These huge animals are very difficult to kill at sea and the suffering of many animals will be great. The global moratorium on commercial whaling remains in place and Japan is now increasingly acting as a rogue nation.”  

Japan has previously allowed three other large whales to be hunted in its Economic Exclusion Zone – Bryde’s, sei and minke – but fin whale meat is highly prized in Japan and has been imported from Iceland in recent years. 

Background Information

In 2022 (the last year for which the IWC has data), Japan took 25 sei whales, 187 Bryde’s whales and 58 minke whales. 

When Japan left the International Whaling Commission (IWC), it also ended its hunts in the Southern Ocean, continuing only its commercial hunts in the North Pacific within its EEZ. For many years, Japan described both its North Pacific and Southern Ocean hunts as ‘scientific whaling’, but this term is discredited; this earlier whaling was also commercial.  

Japan’s own quota for fin whales has not been approved by the IWC, despite Japan’s claims to the contrary. 

The latest decision is linked to Japan’s recent launch of its new ‘state of the art’ whaling mothership, the Kangei Maru, which cost around 7.5 billion yen to build.  The ship weighs around 9,300 tonnes, is 112.6 metres long and is capable of handling very large whales, including fin whales. The Kangei Maru is also said to be capable of reaching the Southern Ocean, where Japan used to hunt, before it left the IWC in 2019.