national

Japanese whalers complete first commercial hunt in 31 years

50 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

A Japanese whaling ship returned home to the country’s southwest Friday after almost meeting its annual quota, ending its first commercial whaling season in 31 years.

Operator Kyodo Senpaku Co. said its main factory ship Nisshin Maru returned to its home port of Shimonoseki, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s home constituency, after catching 223 whales during its three-month expedition off the Japanese coast. Nisshin Maru’s two support ships, Yushin Maru and No. 3 Yushin Maru, also returned to their home ports.

Japan resumed commercial whaling on July 1 after leaving the International Whaling Commission, promising that the whalers would stay within the country’s exclusive economic waters.

Japan had conducted research hunts for 31 years in the Antarctic and the Northwest Pacific that conservationists criticized as a cover for commercial hunts banned by the IWC.

Kyodo Senpaku President Eiji Mori praised the whalers for returning with “better than expected” results despite earlier uncertainty because of their lack of experience in the area.

“We were worried if we could catch any, but they did a great job,” Mori said. “We will examine the results closely and make a plan for the next season.”

Of the quota of 232 whales allocated to the main fleet, they caught 187 Bryde's, 25 sei and 11 minke whales, only nine minke whales short of the cap. The fleet brought back an estimated 1,430 tons of frozen whale meat from the catch, down 670 tons from last year’s Antarctic hunts.

Separately, whalers operating smaller scale hunts in waters just off Japan’s northeastern coasts already filled their seasonal quota of 33 minke whales, fisheries officials said. Days after the resumption, their fleet of five small boats returned with two minke whales, whose fresh meat fetched as much as 15,000 yen per kilogram (2.2 pounds) at a local fish market auction celebrating the first commercial hunt in three decades.

“It’s wonderful that we had a good start,” said Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Taku Eto, a member of Abe’s ruling party, which has pushed for commercial whaling. “We will continue our support so that commercial whaling gets on track.”

His ministry is requesting a 5.1 billion yen ($48 million) budget for fiscal 2020 to support commercial whaling.

While opponents condemn Japan’s commercial whaling, others question if the embattled whaling program can survive changing times and tastes.

Whale meat was an affordable source of protein during the lean times after World War II, with annual consumption peaking at 223,000 tons in 1962, but whale was quickly replaced by other meats. Today, annual consumption is down to 4,000-5,000 tons, according to the Fisheries Agency.

Eto says he still has hope. “I recently had fried whale for the first time in years, and it was outstandingly delicious. ... I’m sure consumers will appreciate the taste once they try it.”

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

50 Comments
Login to comment

“I recently had fried whale for the first time in years, and it was outstandingly delicious. ... I’m sure consumers will appreciate the taste once they try it.”

I've never eaten whale, and never shall.

4 ( +22 / -18 )

In other words, this was the first time in 31 years they forgot to paint the word "RESEARCH" on the side of the commercial whaling ships.

When I was on JET years ago, there was a big beach bash at which a dozen or so of us had a 'Whale Cook-off BBQ Showdown' off to the side. The contest ended a bit prematurely when some of the social justice JETs got wind of what we were up to, and a rather large, angry Canadian gal came bounding over in a fit of shouted obscenities and kicked our grills and their contents over into the sand. It was hard to be too angry when our stomachs hurt from laughing so hard.

-28 ( +3 / -31 )

 ministry is requesting a 5.1 billion yen ($48 million) budget for fiscal 2020 to support commercial whaling.

For some of you that curious why recently Japanese increase their tax from 8% to 10%, that's one of the reason. So if you purchase an item and being taxed, that's where it goes.

8 ( +24 / -16 )

So it's now commercial whaling, 1430tons of whale meat , also mentioned ¥15000 kilo, and yet , to add insult to the Japanese citizens , after just increasing consumption tax from 8% to 10%, this "His ministry is requesting a 5.1 billion yen ($48 million) budget for fiscal 2020 to support commercial whaling." Support , are you kidding me, it's commercial whaling , no support needed. This is just more of how governance wastes tax payers money.

7 ( +23 / -16 )

"Research"????? Pretty disingenuous to have ever claimed that. No one believe that anymore. The sad fact is also that Whales have a very high Mercury content due to the continued burning of coal for energy and the Mercury that is absorbed in our oceans, so the result is that folks that eat whale are slowly, but surely, poisoning themselves.

2 ( +20 / -18 )

“We were worried if we could catch any, but they did a great job,

The above statement shows the clear idiocy of Japan’s commercial whaling. The whales are so scarce they were afraid they wouldn’t catch any, but they are congratulating themselves on scraping up a couple of hundred whales from depleted populations. It’s quite disturbing they caught Sei whales too. The North Pacific Sei whale is still on the critically endangered list.

Japan’s wanton commercial whaling (raping) of the North Pacific will result in extinction of the few whale species being targeted within a few short years, at which point, Japan will start petitioning to hunt whales in the southern oceans again. That will be a fight to see.

0 ( +19 / -19 )

Japans country, Japans culture, Japans right. Congratulations to the whalers on their successful hunt! Whaling supports jobs and communities in Japan, and has for centuries.

-10 ( +20 / -30 )

@oldman_13

You are right.

But for me, there is a big difference between what we can reproduce or not.

Over 99% of the meat we eat is reproduced with the human input, the animal is not wild.

That is not the case for many fish, and also whales. And the risk is as you know the depletion of species by overfishing.

It is a different story for meat

2 ( +18 / -16 )

Instead of the one-sided propaganda from NHK and the other 'news' outlets, If Japanese people realised how much this was costing, how little benefit is coming from it and just how pointless it all is then they wouldn't support it. I talked to a university professor who originally took offence to the foreign opposition to it but once we went over the facts they realised there's no point doing it and in fact shouldn't be done based on ecological considerations.

It's just vote-buying jingoism at the end of the day

1 ( +19 / -18 )

It seems Japan should not say loudly it is very delicious to the world. What if the world start to eat more just like tuna. Tuna was not eaten popularly for a long time by many countries.

6 ( +16 / -10 )

Ask the Japanese government why whale and albatross meat are not included in the national school lunch program. The boycott of Japanese goods worldwide is increasing in a growing protest over Japanese whaling.

-4 ( +13 / -17 )

Whaling supports jobs and communities in Japan, and has for centuries.

Really? I'd be very interested to know just how many jobs and how many communities whaling supports. I'm sure you have that information at your fingertips and will be able to post it soon.

We're still waiting for your explanation of "Japans rules of universal politeness, cleanliness, and public order," as you put it yesterday.

Maybe you could bundle both replies together in one post? I realise it's nearly lunchtime in Australia so there's no rush. Anytime over the weekend would be fine, cobber.

-3 ( +12 / -15 )

Eto says he still has hope. “I recently had fried whale for the first time in years, and it was outstandingly delicious. ... I’m sure consumers will appreciate the taste once they try it.”

It sounds delicious. More people in Japan should try it, and make up their own minds. It is of no importance when foreigners demand that Japanese submit to the will animal rights activists, and eco-terrorists.

-4 ( +16 / -20 )

They have had whale every year and those caught this year are the same whales caught every year. The taste does not improve because of commercial hunting when in fact the industry is still getting the government subsidies.

Eating whale is a dying trade and the amounts consumed so much lower than in the last century.

2 ( +19 / -17 )

arrestpaul

It sounds delicious.

So why are you not eating it then?

-3 ( +11 / -14 )

Still catching endangered Sei whales I see. Classy.

-3 ( +12 / -15 )

Some species of whale are endangered..... so don’t kill them. But a blanket ban because they are cute or look after their young or are “intelligent” or whatever reason doesn’t make sense.

0 ( +14 / -14 )

Ganbare Japan! - Japans country, Japans culture, Japans right

Dont you ever grow tired of posting the same rhetoric? Yes, Japan’s country, Japan’s right with no responsibility or consideration for the stocks of the animals. Just kill it because it’s there. We all know that Japan has hunted the Japan Sea sardine (iwashi) into extinction and they have overfished all the other fish in that ocean to the point where it has been taken over by giant jelly fish. Japan is just one small overpopulated island in the world. It is not the center of the world.

4 ( +18 / -14 )

On average people only eat 15 gm of whale meat every year. People in several prefectures don't even eat any.

-2 ( +13 / -15 )

Some species of whale are endangered..... so don’t kill them.

Japan is killing them. Their arguement is that they aren't endangered enough.

But a blanket ban because they are cute or look after their young or are “intelligent” or whatever reason doesn’t make sense.

I've never heard people describe whales as 'cute'. You may be confusing them with dolphins. They are cute, so Japan cheerfully jabs them in head too.

Whalers think that because whales eat fish, killing whales means more fish. They are simple folk.

-2 ( +13 / -15 )

arrestpaul - It sounds delicious. More people in Japan should try it, and make up their own minds. It is of no importance when foreigners demand that Japanese submit to the will animal rights activists, and eco-terrorists.

It's got nothing to do eco-terrorists or whatever other delusion you make up to justify Japan's commercial hunting of endangered species. It is about responsibility! Japan likes to tout itself as a modern nation, but acts like this show Japan to be a very immature and selfish country not worthy of calling itself a modern nation. I'd put Japan in the same boat as Somalia for international respect and responsibility. It's just a country of corrupt backwater rednecks!

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

Ganbare Japan!Today  08:17 am JST

Japans country, Japans culture, Japans right.

No country has the "right" to hunt an endangered species or to hunt a species to extinction. I don't care if it has been their culture for a million years. Attempting to claim such a right is arrogance of the highest order. People like that should probably be hunted to extinction. The world would become a much better place when they are gone.

-2 ( +13 / -15 )

So why are you not eating it then?

all whales and dolphin meat sold in Japan has been proven to have high levels of mercury, remember Japan no longer hunts in the pristine waters of Antarctica so that excuse is now defunct, with all the food mislabel problems in Japan you really dont know what type of whale your eating. With so many cheaper healthier meats available for consumption why would you want to feed that tripe to your family. Recalcitrant pride has a habit of doing more harm than good

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

But a blanket ban because they are cute or look after their young or are “intelligent” or whatever reason doesn’t make sense.

and history has shown that any whale that has been caught commercially has been pushed into endangered territory, Japan record of ocean conservation is pathetic at best many of the species it catches are at a fraction of levels they were 50yrs ago, many are now endangered. Bluefin tuna is now endangered yet Japan is pushing to increase it quota!. and then people wonder why Japan hunting whales is a problem!?

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Whaling supports jobs and communities in Japan, and has for centuries.

ok take away the 5.1 billion yen in government subsidies see if it can support itsekf then,

Face it whaling like much of J agriculture is a welfare industry, the consume far more government subsidies than the tax revenue they generate. Whaling and agriculture represent less than 1% the Japanese economy

1 ( +11 / -10 )

A  5.1 billion yen subsidy for the pet food industry...

1 ( +10 / -9 )

There are so many reasons why hunting whale is wrong, so I'm just going to leave it at that. Oh, wait till the Olympics are on and the press starts on about whaling Japan is going to look really bad to the rest of the world.

0 ( +9 / -9 )

down vote these FACTS

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030520082803.htm

-2 ( +7 / -9 )

Japan is just one small overpopulated island in the world. It is not the center of the world.

Exactly. It's common knowledge within scientific communities that Japan is notorious for overfishing. Japan will arrogantly fish the any oceans they can access to extinction within 3 more decades.

Not to mention the great insult of hunting these amazing, intelligent animals.

Ludicrous Japan.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

The whaling industry employs less than 1,000 workers but receives substantial subsidies because of a part of Abe's voting base.

0 ( +9 / -9 )

*His ministry is requesting a 5.1 billion yen ($48 million) budget for fiscal 2020 to support commercial whaling.*

If it needs support from tax money, it's not commercial.

Prove that there's a sustainable market for mercury-laden whalemeat. How many folk do you imagine are willing on a regular basis to pay ¥15,000 a kilo to eat poison-laced meat that stinks of fish?

Whaling supports jobs and communities in Japan, and has for centuries.

Jobs and communities in Japan were supported for centuries by the samurai society, where the lower classes could rightly have their heads chopped off if they failed to bow quickly enough and grovelingly enough. If what happened centuries ago in Japan is your ideal, maybe you should grow a topknot, watch out for men swaggering around in kimono with a couple of swords tucked into their belt, be quick to bow, and insist your wife blacken her teeth and paint her face with white lead. Don't forget to send your surplus kids into indentured servitude (年季奉公) when they reach the age of 10 or 11.

Just because something went on 'for centuries' doesn't mean it has a place in the 21st century.

0 ( +9 / -9 )

Tuna was not eaten popularly for a long time by many countries.

The things that Japanese people believe make me laugh sometimes.

Tuna has been fished and eaten for 3000 years in Europe... since the time of the Phoenicians.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

I've never eaten whale, and never shall.

Good, making choices for yourself.

I've never eaten sushi, but I don't try and stop others from eating it.

For some of you that curious why recently Japanese increase their tax from 8% to 10%, that's one of the reason. So if you purchase an item and being taxed, that's where it goes.

For some of you that are curious, in 2017 Japan collected 101,007 billion yen in taxes. 5.1 billion represents 0.005%. So if you paid 2,500,000 yen ($23375) in taxes, your share was 126 yen ($1.18).

The North Pacific Sei whale is still on the critically endangered list.

The IUCN does not list it as critically endangered. In fact they say the population is increasing and that the species is likely to be raised to Vulnerable from Endangered within the next 5 years.

Japan will start petitioning to hunt whales in the southern oceans again. That will be a fight to see.

Japan, no longer being a member of the IWC does not need to petion to hunt in the southern oceans. They can just decided to do it. If they so decided there would not be any fight to see.

and history has shown that any whale that has been caught commercially has been pushed into endangered territory

Japan has hunted Sei whales for over 30 years and their population is increasing to the point where the IUCN expects to remove them from the Endangered category to Vulnerable. Your claimed history is wrong.

down vote these FACTS

"...every single slice of toothed whale red meat..."

"...they caught 187 Bryde's, 25 sei and 11 minke whales..."

None of which are toothed whales.

...meat that stinks of fish?

Lots of people eat fish directly, so why would meat that smells like fish not also be accepted?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Japans country, Japans culture, Japans right

Odd that you don't use this logic to support every country that does things the world finds repugnant.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

"...they caught 187 Bryde's, 25 sei and 11 minke whales..."

None of which are toothed whales.

all caught in the same waters off Japan all whales/dolphins caught in those waters eat the same fish/ plankton,

mercury levels in those fish/plankton and waters havent got any less over the last 16yrs since the testing was done if anything theyre more polluted. If people want to kid themselves that the whale meat they buy is somehow immune to the ocean contamination that Prof Ando and his colleges clearly showed in their study then go right ahead feed that to your families. My family and I will stick to the healthier and cheaper meats available.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

"...they caught 187 Bryde's, 25 sei and 11 minke whales..."

Between 2000 and 2002, Endo and his colleagues purchased whale meat in towns across Japan — from tiny fishing villages to Tokyo. They measured total mercury levels in the samples and did a genetic analysis to verify the species of each whale.

The researchers analyzed 137 meat samples in all and found that every one exceeded the provisional mercury level set by the Japanese Ministry of Health, which is 0.4 parts per million (ppm). Out of nine different whale species identified, the lowest average mercury level was 1.26 ppm and the highest was 46.9 ppm, with the majority of species ranging from 5-10 ppm.

do people seriously think that the 187 Bryde's, 25 sei and 11 minke whales are somehow immune to the mercury contamination that other whales and dolphins are exposed too!? LOL

Mercury doesnt disipate over time it continues to accumulate in the meat and most whale species live much longer life spans than most ocean creatures

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

The IUCN does not list it as critically endangered. In fact they say the population is increasing and that the species is likely to be raised to Vulnerable from Endangered within the next 5 years.

so basically Japan is hunting another vulnerable/endangered species like Blue fin tuna and they expect the world to take them serious over ocean conservation. their culture, their right, their exploitation BS excuse again. LMFAO

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

His ministry is requesting a 5.1 billion yen ($48 million) budget for fiscal 2020 to support commercial whaling.

It should be called "taxpayer-funded whaling" as it certainly isn't commercial.

I'm waiting for the results of the heavy metal and toxin tests they will carry out on the whale meat to show it is safe for human consumption. I expect the test results will be falsified, if they are conducted at all.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

zichi - They have had whale every year and those caught this year are the same whales caught every year.

Can they really catch the same whales every year?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Chip Star - Odd that you don't use this logic to support every country that does things the world finds repugnant.

The "world" doesn't care about whales. The "world" has more important things to be concerned about. Only a small vocal group of animal-rights zealots, and eco-terrorists, are claiming that they speak for the "world".

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

mercury levels in those fish/plankton and waters havent got any less over the last 16yrs since the testing was done if anything theyre more polluted.

The cited paper specifically says the high levels were in toothed whales. Toothed whales eat food much higher on the food chain than do baleen whales, food that has itself concentrated mercury and thus toothed whales have high levels of mercury as do apex predator fish like tuna and swordfish. Baleen whales eat small prey, like plankton, which have low levels of mercury and thus baleen whales do not have anywhere near the levels of mercury seen in toothed whales.

This is the cited paper. It says that all except one sample of baleen whales were BELOW the permitted level.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10666649_Mercury_Contamination_in_the_Red_Meat_of_Whales_and_Dolphins_Marketed_for_Human_Consumption_in_Japan

On the other hand, T-Hg concentrations in all mystecete red meat samples except for one (0.01-0.54 microg/ wet g, n = 62) were below the permitted level of T-Hg, probably reflecting their lower trophic levels.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

arrestpaul

so are you eating whale this year like you did last year? What is the difference of taste between research whale and commercial whale?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This is the cited paper. It says that all except one sample of baleen whales were BELOW the permitted level. LOL if your sure what your buying is labeled correctly and your sure the species and the part of the whale is labeled corectly then go right ahead feed that to your family.

137 samples out of 137 samples that were tested , all were available for human consumption ,we over the limit, they're not odds Id be willing to gamble with.

Seems your more determined to convince yourself that whale meat is great, the dwindling consumption and taxpayer subsidised industry that would fail without it is proof it isnt . The best part is now at least the whalers dont try and BS everybody its for research.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

137 samples out of 137 samples that were tested , all were available for human consumption ,we over the limit, they're not odds Id be willing to gamble with.

And they were all toothed whales. While all the whales caught in this hunt are baleen whales.

Seems you are determined to misrepresent the paper you cited.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

And they were all toothed whales. While all the whales caught in this hunt are baleen whales.

Seems you are determined to misrepresent the paper you cited.

not at all no baleen whales werent being caught in Japanese waters in 2000~2002 , probably why no testing was dont on their meat. now if you think its logical to say baleen whales are somehow free of contamination that toothed whales arent then go right ahead dig in. No offence but when discussing whaling with pro whalers it feels like Im trying to describe logic to a Trump supporter. just a thought maybe you should try some whale meat caught in waters near Fukushima!? you know because their species dictates their contamination levels.

There is a website I saw somewhere that states all the health benefits of eating whale meat, unfortunately its funded by the Japanese whaling industry. LOL

2 ( +3 / -1 )

not at all no baleen whales werent being caught in Japanese waters in 2000~2002 , probably why no testing was dont on their meat.

As I already posted, the cited paper specifically mentions samples and testing on baleen whales.

now if you think its logical to say baleen whales are somehow free of contamination that toothed whales arent then go right ahead dig in.

I never said that. In fact I specifically posted from the paper where it says otherwise. Now if you think it is logical to lie about what the cited paper (and other commenters) said then go right ahead, dig in.

just a thought maybe you should try some whale meat caught in waters near Fukushima!?

Sure. Since they just lifted restrictions on all but two species of seafood off the Fukushima coast I am more than willing. Just point me to where I can get some.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Sure. Since they just lifted restrictions on all but two species of seafood off the Fukushima coast I am more than willing. Just point me to where I can get some.

yet the people of Fukushima dont even trust governement testing of products, many get it done by a private companys

end of the day it doesn't matter what you or I think fact is whale meat will never be a mainstream product

and unless it becomes staple of the pet food industry  ( which they've already tried to do, sort of defuncts the whole myth of research/culture doesnt it) then it will continue to decline to irrelevance, eaten by a recalcitrant few.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

yet the people of Fukushima dont even trust governement testing of products, many get it done by a private companys

Which has nothing to do with whether I would eat it or not.

end of the day it doesn't matter what you or I think fact is whale meat will never be a mainstream product

End of the day I never said it would be.

and unless it becomes staple of the pet food industry ( which they've already tried to do, sort of defuncts the whole myth of research/culture doesnt it)

Nope doesn't debunk anything. Culture doesn't mean everybody does it and since the regulations required them to process the meat from research whaling, trying to find markets for the meat is right in line with that.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Since they just lifted restrictions on all but two species of seafood off the Fukushima coast

who do you think does the testing of the fish caught off the coast of Fukushima,.. the J government.

If your happy to take their word for it without any third party testing to back their claims then go right ahead.

Nope doesn't debunk anything. 

so what part of Japanese culture does whaling mean processing it into pet food!? who else is going to buy it to eat outside of Japan. If Japan does decide to process whale meat into pet food and makes a good profit from doing it, do you think Korea, Taiwan China will sit back at let Japan do it alone!? Do you think whaling will be immune to over exploitation of the resource, history has shown it isnt. Just look at every other fish species Japan touches almost all are at a fraction of the numbers they were 50yrs ago many now are either endangered or threatened. Its take decades for whale numbers to recover, now Japan wants to do it all again. And somehow some people think itll be different this time around regarding commercial whaling. LOL

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

who do you think does the testing of the fish caught off the coast of Fukushima

Third party testing is being done by locals and by various international groups.

Its take decades for whale numbers to recover,

Like Humpbacks, which have been removed from the endangered species list and Sei whales which are on their way to being removed.

do you think Korea, Taiwan China will sit back at let Japan do it alone!? Do you think whaling will be immune to over exploitation of the resource, history has shown it isnt. Just look at every other fish species Japan touches almost all are at a fraction of the numbers they were 50yrs ago many now are either endangered or threatened.

So if Japan is making money with all these other fish species, why are 'Korea, Taiwan China' sitting back and letting Japan do it alone!?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites