The Interesting Industry of Japanese Whaling

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If I had one year to learn more about a topic of my choice, I would study about the Japanese whaling industry. Although whale hunting in Japan began in the 12th century, Japan’s involvement in the whaling industry began in the 1890s. The international whaling industry functioned normally until 1925 when the League of Nations called for conservation measures in 1925. This eventually led to the Geneva Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in 1931, which was ignored by Japan and Germany. Instead, as whale catches diminished in coastal waters, Japanese whale hunters looked to Antarctica. This started with the Japanese company Toyo Hogei K.K. purchasing the Norwegian ship Antarctic, renaming it the Tonan Maru.

However, World War II soon followed, and the Japanese whaling industry was reduced to familiar hunting grounds. Whaling was halted in Japan in March 1945 when the Japanese islands were taken by US forces. By November 1945, Japanese whaling stations reopened; however, most whaling ships had been commandeered by the Japanese navy, thus crushing the Japanese whaling industry. The U.S. continued to encourage Japan to continue whaling in order to provide a cheap source of meat. Eventually, the Japanese whaling industry recovered as Japanese whale hunters went back to Antarctica.

During the recovery period, Australian Kenneth Coonan criticized Lieutenant David McCracken, the naval officer who oversaw the first post-war whaling expedition, after observing waste being dumped over the side of a whaling ship when the fleet killed whales at a faster rate than they were processed. This expedition was the first of many for McCracken, who eventually detailed his journeys in the book Four Months on a Jap Whaler.

After the International C...

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...to Japan’s influence on other International Whaling Conference Nations. In 1982, the International Whaling Commission passed a moratorium that went into effect in 1986. Japan objected to this moratorium and continued whaling. In 2009, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party lost after 50 years in power to the Democratic Party of Japan. While environmentalists hoped that this would cause a change in Japan’s attitude toward whaling, the new government said that whaling would continue to receive support as a matter of policy. Japan has continued whale hunting despite numerous calls to stop doing so.

If I were to investigate this issue, I would speak to Japanese officials regarding their reasons to continue whaling. I would also interview officials from anti-whaling nations, asking them for their side of the story. This is how I would investigate the Japanese whaling industry.

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