Japan Kills 50 Minke Whales in Marine Protected Area

A minke whale.

A minke whale. NOAA

Japanese whalers killed more than 50 minke whales in a marine protected area (MPA) in Antarctica earlier this year, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund. Harvesting krill and fishing is not allowed in Antarctica’s 600,000 square-mile Ross Sea MPA, but Japan continues whaling in the region and globally by classifying its hunt as part of a scientific research program, The Guardian reported.

Japan, a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), has permission to kill 333 minke whales in the Southern Ocean each year under this scientific exemption. So far this year, the whaling toll has included 122 pregnant females. Most of the meat from these whales is sold in Japanese markets and restaurants.

The Ross Sea MPA was created in 2016 by 24 nations, including Japan, as part of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to protect what one scientific study called “the least altered marine ecosystem on Earth.” While the agreement bans fishing and harvesting krill throughout nearly all of the MPA for 35 years, the Antarctic commission doesn’t control whaling in the region. That’s up to the International Whaling Commission, which grants Japan its scientific exemption.

“Thousands of other species are protected in this part of the Ross Sea, so it is shocking and absurd that minke whales are not,” Rod Downie, polar chief adviser at WWF, told The Guardian. “The banner of so called ‘scientific whaling’ needs to stop once and for all. The IWC and CCAMLR must work together and take immediate action to close these loopholes currently being exploited by Japan to ensure this ocean sanctuary is protected for future generations.”