Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest

February 16, 2024

1. Whaling in Japan

(1) Initial Allocation of TAC (Total Allowable Catch) Catch Quota

Whaling in Japan targets cetacean species as listed below, whose abundance has been confirmed by the International Whaling Committee (IWC). TAC (Total Allowable Catch) is set within the catch limits calculated in line with the method adopted by the IWC to avoid negative impact on cetacean resources.

Initial Allocation of TAC for 2024
Catch limit
(Note 1)
[For reference]
Fisheries Agency of JapanFisheries Agency of Japan
(Total Allowable Catch)
(Note 2)
  Number of bycatch
(Note 5)
Initial Allocation of TAC
(Note 3)
Government reserves
(Note 4)
Initial Catch Quota Government reserves Number of bycatch Catch total
Minke whale 167 142 Factory ship type whaling 0 0 25 Factory ship type whaling 0 27 31 Factory ship type whaling 0
Coastal base type whaling 142 Coastal base type whaling 109 Coastal base type whaling 88
Bryde’s whale 187 187 Factory ship type whaling 150 37 0 Factory ship type whaling 150 37 0 Factory ship type whaling 187
Coastal base type whaling 0
Sei whale 25 25 Factory ship type whaling 24 0 0 Factory ship type whaling 24 0 1 Factory ship type whaling 24
  • (Note 1) Catch limit is calculated in line with the method adopted by the IWC.
  • (Note 2) TAC has been set for whaling since 2022 due to the amendment of the Fishery Act. TAC is calculated by subtracting the number of bycatch from the number of catch limit: minke whale 167-25=142.
  • (Note 3) "Initial catch quota" has been renamed as "Initial Allocation of TAC" due to the amendment of the Fishery Act. The initial allocation of TAC is calculated by subtracting the number Government reserves from the number of TAC: bryde’s whale 187-37=150.
  • (Note 4) Government reserves are for adjustment in operation of factory ship type whaling and coastal base type whaling.
  • (Note 5) Number of bycatch is average over the past 5 years (2018-2022 for minke whale).

(Reference: Fisheries Agency of Japan “Initial allocations of TAC for 2024” (PDF) Open a New Window)

(2) Operating Areas

Whaling in Japan is conducted within Japan’s territorial sea and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

(image) Japan's whaling Factory ship type whaling (1) Permitted whaling by the Minister Uses harpoon cannon (2) Targeted species Minke whalem Bryde’s whale, Sei whale (3) Number of vessels permitted 1 fleet (1 factory ship and 3 catcher vessels) (4) Operating areas(Note): Shimonoseki
Coastal whaling (1) Permitted whaling by the Minister Uses harpoon cannon (2) Targeted speciese Minke whale, Baird’s breaked whlale Short-finned pilot whale, False killer whlae (3) Number of vessels permitted 5 vessels (Landing base: Abashiri, Ishinomaki, Minamiboso, Taiji) (4) Operating areas(Note): Abashiri, Kushiro, Hachinohe, Ishinomaki, Minamiboso, Taiji (Note)Areas are decided by the whaling operations. Japan’s EEZ boundary(Reference: Fisheries Agency of Japan)

2. Japan’s Basic Position on Whaling

⑴ Why Japan Withdrew from the IWC

Japan has consistently insisted that marine living resources including Cetaceans should be utilized in a sustainable manner under science-based management. In 1951, Japan acceded to the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), concluded to ‘provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry. Ever since the so-called moratorium on commercial whaling(Note) was introduced, Japan has been sincerely engaged in the dialogues in the IWC for over 30 years to enable the resumption of commercial whaling, showing that a sustainable whaling is possible on the basis of scientific data, while actively taking part in the efforts seeking for solutions.

Although scientific evidence has confirmed that certain whale species are abundant, Member States that focus exclusively on the protection of whales, while ignoring the necessity of sustainable use of whales, refused to agree to take any tangible steps towards reaching a common position that would ensure the orderly development of the whaling industry, clearly mentioned in the ICRW. Furthermore, the 67th Meeting of the IWC in September 2018 unveiled the fact that it was not possible in the IWC even to seek the coexistence of States with different views and positions. It can be seen for instance from the rejection of Japan’s proposal and orderly development of the whaling industry which clearly mentioned in the Convention was ignored. Consequently, Japan withdrew from ICRW on June 30th, 2019, and resumed the commercial whaling in July, 2019.

(Note) Moratorium on commercial whaling (adopted in 1982): Moratorium on commercial whaling sets the commercial catch limit of zero for all whale species. By 1990 at the latest, the IWC was supposed to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the effects of the moratorium and consider modification of the provision and the establishment of other (i.e. other than zero) catch limits.

⑵ Japan’s Position after Withdrawing from the IWC

Even after its withdrawal from the IWC, Japan remains committed to international cooperation for the proper management of marine living resources. In coordination with international organizations, such as through its engagement with the IWC as an observer, Japan will continue to contribute to the science-based sustainable management of whale resources.

4. Practices of Public Diplomacy

Japan has made efforts to deepen understanding among the international community about Japan’s whaling policy. In making use of every opportunity to disseminate accurate information about whaling, such as contributing articles to the major newspapers, appealing to the public through Japan’s diplomatic missions overseas, and presenting lectures by senior MOFA officers at both domestic and international levels, we highlight the following key points.

  1. The argument that “Japan’s whaling drives whales to extinction” is inaccurate.
  2. The argument that “Japan versus the world” with regard to whaling is contrary to the facts.
  3. The argument that “Japan is not cooperating with the international community after withdrawing from the IWC” is inconsistent to the facts.
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