Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest

March 22, 2021

1. Whaling in Japan

(1) Catch Quota

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

Catch Quota for 2021
Catch limit
(Same as the catch limit of 2020)
Catch Quota Quota reserved by the Government Number of bycatch
(Note 1)
【For reference】2020
Initial Quota(Note 2) Quota reserved by the Government Number of bycatch
(Note 1)
Catch total
Minke whale 171 Factory ship type whaling 0 14 37 Factory ship type whaling 20 12 39 Factory ship type whaling 0
Coastal whaling
(Note 3)
120 Small-scale whale fishery 100 Small-scale whale fishery 95
Bryde’s whale 187 Factory ship type whaling 150 37 0 Factory ship type whaling 150 37 0 Factory ship type whaling 187
Sei whale 25 Factory ship type whaling 25 0 0 Factory ship type whaling 25 0 0 Factory ship type whaling 25
Total 383 295 51 37 295 49 39 307
  • (Note 1) Average for the last five years.
  • (Note 2) Release of quota from quota reserved by the Government to small-scale whale fishery and allocation of quota to factory ship type whaling took place during the fishing season in 2020. This table shows the initial number when the catch quota was set.
  • (Note 3) In accordance with the revision of the Fishery Act on December 1, 2020, the name was changed from "Small-scale whale fishery" to "Coastal whaling".
(Reference: Fisheries Agency of Japan “Whaling catch quotas for 2021 (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.

3. FAQ on Whaling

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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