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Whaling review

No case for Japan to kill minke whales

On 12 April, an expert panel convened by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will deliver its review of Japan's latest proposal to kill Antarctic minke whales for research. Along with other members of the panel, I find that the Japanese government's scientific case does not justify lethal capture of any whales.

Japan's proposal to kill 333 whales every year until 2026 was submitted after the International Court of Justice ruled in March 2014 that the Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic II (JARPA II) was not for purposes of scientific research. The court ordered Japan “to revoke any extant authorization, permit or licence to kill, take or treat whales in relation to JARPA II”.

It is essential, therefore, that the review outcome is decisive and depends only on the quality of the scientific case for whaling made by Japan. This is implicit in the commission's new terms of reference (see IWC J. Cetacean Res. Manage. 16, S1–S5; 2015 and go.nature.com/j4dbeg).

Under these new terms, review panels are not required to make suggestions on how to improve proposals — but this historical practice still persists. I believe strongly that it must cease. It should not be assumed that whaling is inevitable (see P. J. Clapham Mar. Policy 51, 238–241; 2015). Neither should panel members be made collaborators in an iterative approach towards approving whaling proposals. Otherwise, there is a risk that IWC practice as currently in effect could subvert the norm of independent review.

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Correspondence to Andrew S. Brierley.

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Brierley, A. No case for Japan to kill minke whales. Nature 520, 157 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/520157c

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