Japan has continued to kill whales since the 1986 commercial whaling moratorium, purportedly for research under Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Last month, the country issued permits for a new scientific whaling programme (NEWREP-NP) in the North Pacific. This is despite the assessment by an International Whaling Commission (IWC) expert panel in February 2017 that Japan's lethal sampling remains unjustified.
The panel also concluded that the NEWREP-NP proposal gave insufficient justification for sampling design and sample size, and failed to show that additional age data from dead whales could improve management of whale stocks. There were further concerns about the impact of proposed catches on minke whales around Japan and South Korea — populations that are already threatened by high fisheries bycatch. The panel therefore advised that NEWREP-NP should not start, pending further study. In May, the IWC Scientific Committee endorsed the panel's recommendations.
A previous expert panel reached similar conclusions in 2015 about Japan's Antarctic scientific whaling programme, NEWREP-A (see 283; 2016, and and Nature 529, 35; 2016). As with NEWREP-NP, this went ahead anyway, despite the availability of widely used non-lethal alternatives for acquiring the information needed for stock management. Nature 531,