The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recently released a report highlighting Japan’s use of obsolete data to set hunting quotas for whales, dolphins and porpoises. Even though this year’s catch limit of 16,655 for small cetaceans is a drastic improvement from the 30,000 caught annually in 1993 before limits were set, some species have still been hunted beyond the point of recovery. Japan still carries out the largest hunt in the world, a problem compounded by the lucrative “live catch” market for aquariums that can earn hunters between $8,400 and $98,000 per animal.

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A prime example of why small cetaceans are most threatened by overfishing is the Dall’s porpoise, whose catch numbers are still 4.7-4.8 times higher than the safe threshold. The striped dolphin, a species which used to be the mainstay of the industry during the 1980s when roughly 1,800 were caught each year, is in the same boat. Now they are often impossible to find and only 100 of them are caught each year. Whales and dolphins aren’t the only animals under threat – Japanese eels and puffer fish, both considered a national delicacy, are often unable to escape fishermen’s nets.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency defends coastal whaling as a longstanding tradition that is also necessary for scientific research, even though the meat from a single bottlenose dolphin can fetch roughly $50,000, making it hard to believe the motivation is purely scientific. They also refused to comment on the latest EIA report, which shows that they are setting quotas based on 20 year old population data, because they “hadn’t seen it.”

The environmental agency has urged the government to update its data and stop transferring quotas from already overfished areas to those that exceed their quotas. Even if the government were to update its hunt limits, it has long relied on a 1946 treaty that grants nations permits to kill whales for scientific research. So, until this loophole is closed, it is unlikely that Japan is going to stop its excessive hunting practices until every last whale, dolphin and porpoise has been exterminated.

Via The Guardian

Images by TylerIngram, mikebaird