Breaking! Japan Issued Itself A “Special Permit” To Kill 333 Minke Whales In The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area in Antarctica; They Have Killed 50 Minke Whales This Year

Photo Credit NOAA

Japanese whalers have killed more than 50 minke whales this year in the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Antarctica, World Wildlife Fund revealed yesterday during the opening day of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Brazil.

Harvesting krill and fishing is banned in the Ross Sea MPA special protection zone, yet Japan is able to conduct whaling in this unique natural area through a “scientific whaling” loophole.  WWF is calling on the IWC and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to work together with the Japanese government to close this loophole and end the killing of whales in the Ross Sea MPA and the wider Southern Ocean sanctuary.

“The Ross Sea MPA is supposed to have special protection from human activities to safeguard a wealth of Antarctic wildlife. People around the world who celebrated this historic ocean sanctuary will be shocked by the killing of whales within its boundaries,” Chris Johnson, Senior Manager of WWF Antarctic Program said in a statement. “Only the IWC can close the loophole that enables whales to be harpooned in a protected area. CCAMLR needs to step up and take a role in working closer with IWC to ensure that happens. It is a travesty that Japan can go into an ocean sanctuary and harpoon whales.”

The Ross Sea MPA, one of the world’s largest protected areas covering 1.55 million sq km, was agreed to by CCAMLR in 2016. The Commission is made up of 24-member states including Japan and the EU. The MPA helps to protect many of the thousands of species that live in the Southern Ocean including Antarctic krill, emperor penguins, Weddell seals, and a range of whale species including blue, humpback, minke, and killer whales.

But CCAMLR does not control whaling in the region, instead, any member country of the IWC can grant itself a special permit to whale. On March 31st, 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan should revoke all existing permits for “scientific whaling” in the Southern Ocean and refrain from granting any further permits. Japan simply issued itself a new special permit called NewRep-A which leads to the killing of 333 Antarctic minke whales each year in the Southern Ocean until 2027.

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