GRAPHIC footage showing the realities of Japanese whaling in Australian waters was released Tuesday after a five-year legal battle against the Australian government.
Conservation charity Sea Shepherd won the case after lodging a Freedom of Information bid in 2012 forcing the government to release the footage that they had previously tried to suppress.
The footage was shot in 2008 by customs officials sent by the government to document Japan’s whaling in Australia’s Antarctic territory. It shows a Japanese “research” vessel chasing down and killing minke whale in areas designated for wildlife conservation.
The video captures the dramatic moment a whale is harpooned within the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. It is then seen being reeled in and hoisted up along the side of the vessel. The boats are able to pursue the mammals at a speed of 24 knots; faster than the 17 knots that the whales are able to swim.
As described by Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen, the whales eventually have to surface due to exhaustion, where they are then harpooned by the whalers.
“When these whales are hit with an explosive harpoon, it sends shrapnel through their bodies and then hooks come out,” Hansen explains. “There’s no way for these whales to escape. They’re thrashing around trying to get away from these harpoon ships, but the cable drags them back up to the surface.”
“It takes a long time for these whales to die. It’s barbaric.”
Once aboard the factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, the whales are “diced up” for the Japanese market, Hansen says.
Despite international condemnation, Japan continues its whaling unapologetically claiming it is for “scientific” reasons. In the 2016-2017 season, its fleet took 333 minke whales in the Antarctic.
The guise of the pursuit of knowledge, however, has been widely discredited by the scientific community who claim that the small amount of research it may contribute “couldn’t make a valid difference” to current data.
Whale meat is also not widely eaten in Japan. It hasn’t been common on the menu since a short period post-World War II when it was used as emergency nutrition to feed the starving.
Today, consumption stands at approximately 5,000 tonnes annually, which while sounding significant, pales in comparison to the 600 million tonnes of total seafood consumed in Japan each year.
Whaling is a minor industry which provides a negligible contribution to the Japanese economy.
Despite the newly-revealed footage being taken in 2008, Hansen claims Japanese ships are still venturing down into Australian sanctuary waters.
Thanks to the Humane Society for calling out the Australian government to stop turning a blind eye to Japanese whaling in its sanctuary. https://t.co/O7jehetTqQ
— Sea Shepherd (@seashepherd) November 28, 2017
In January this year, the Australian government was reportedly “deeply disappointed” when the Japanese were found slaughtering protected whales in the same protected area. This was followed by calls from the Australian Marine Conservation Society for the Australian government to take “every legal and diplomatic avenue available” to prevent continued whaling.
But killings in Australian waters continue to be carried out despite the 2014 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling stating Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling programme was illegal and must stop.
“Unless there is action from the Australian government, in ten years’ time we are still going to see whales being killed in an established whale sanctuary,” Hansen said.
He went on to question if the government represents the wishes of the Australian public, who are resoundingly against the practice of whaling, or Tokyo.
“It’s time the Australian government stepped up and sent a vessel south.”