Japanese hunters killed at least two whales Monday in the first commercial whale hunt in more than 30 years.
Japan stopped commercial whaling in 1988 after the International Whaling Commission, or IWC, banned the killing of whales. However, last December, Japan said it would leave the IWC on June 30.
Japan has long disputed the idea that whales are endangered.
Even with the ban in place, for years Japan continued to hunt whales for what it said was scientific research. However, critics have long said Japan was not truthful about its purpose. They argued that the activity was commercial because Japan sold the meat collected from the hunts.
In the 2017-2018 whaling season, Japanese sailors killed 333 whales in Antarctic waters. More than 120 of them were pregnant females.
The whaling ships sailed Monday from the port of Kushiro, on the northern island of Hokkaido. They will hunt in Japanese waters for three sorts of whales: minke, sei and Bryde’s.
Japan's return to commercial whaling has caused international criticism.
Kitty Block is president of Humane Society International. She was angry about Japan’s decision and said Japan is “undermining” its international image for a product that is no longer in demand.
Whaling is a very small industry in Japan. Government data says that whale accounts for 0.1 percent of meat eaten in the country. The industry employs a few hundred people.
But some experts say Japan's move might help some whales because it will mean that Japan will stop hunting whales in the Southern Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and other sensitive areas.
Japan's Fisheries Agency set a limit of 227 whale kills for this year. Japan caught as many as 1,200 whales a year in the name of scientific research.
Patrick Ramage is the head of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. He welcomed Japan’s move. He said, "What we are seeing is the beginning of the end of Japanese whaling."
I’m Caty Weaver.
Words in This Story
commercial – adj. related to or used in the buying and selling of goods and services
mammal – n. a type of animal that feeds milk to its young and that usually has hair or fur covering most of its skin
undermine – v. to make (someone or something) weaker or less effective usually in a secret or gradual way