Japan Whaling

Update: International Court of Justice rules that Japan's "scientific whaling" violates the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling


Country:  Japan

Ocean: Antarctic Ocean, Western North Pacific, and Japan coastal waters

Target Species and (quota)

  • Antarctic (JARPA II Research)
    • Minke (935)
    • Fin (50)
    • Humpback (50)
  • Western North Pacific
    • Minke (340)
    • Bryde's (50)
    • Sei (100)
    • Sperm (10)
  • Coastal
    • Minke (60)

Whaling Season:

  • Antarctic: December - February
  • Western North Pacific: June - August
  • Coastal: April - October

Whaling Company: Research whaling permits are issued to the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR).  ICR then contracts the company Kyodo Senpaku to provide vessels and crewmembers.  Kyodo Senpaku is the only company that conducts commercial whaling.  

Number of Boats:  7; the Nisshin Maru is the primary vessel and the world's only whaling factory ship. 

Total Number of Whales Killed by Japan Whalers Since 1986:  19,532

In Brief:  Artisanal whaling in Japan can be traced back to at least the 12th century, when Japanese whalers utilized small boats and hand-held harpoons to kill whales that came close to shore.  Small scale, local whaling was eventually replaced by larger, steam powered ships in the 1800's, and by the early 1900's, Japan had fully launched its industrial whaling operation.  While whale meat became an important protein source during the food shortage that plagued Japan following World War II, it should be noted that Japanese whaling vessels had been hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean as early as 1905.  Since the moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986, Japan has continued to hunt whales by exploiting the "research whaling" loophole.  According to the International Commission on the Regulation of Whaling, countries are permitted to hunt whales for scientific research.  In order to avoid waste, the ICRW states that the whale meat from scientific research must be utilized.  Today Japan has yearly catch quotas of over 1,500 whales, a number that clearly does not align with the intent of the research clause.  The current whaling operation, furthermore, is highly subsidized by the government and whale meat no longer represents a staple of the Japanese diet.  Japan is also the only whaling nation that conducts whaling outside of its territorial and economic boundaries.  The modern whaling of today in no way resembles the original heritage or culture of whaling as practiced by the early Japanese, nor is it necessary for food.