Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest
Japan and the Management of Whales
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.
(Same as the catch limit of 2020)
|Catch Quota||Quota reserved by the Government||Number of bycatch
|Initial Quota（Note 2）||Quota reserved by the Government||Number of bycatch
|Minke whale||171||Factory ship type whaling||0||14||37||Factory ship type whaling||20||12||39||Factory ship type whaling||0|
|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|
- (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".
(2) Operating Areas
Whaling in Japan is conducted within Japan’s territorial sea and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
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.
- Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary (English / Japanese (Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet Website)) (December 26, 2018)
- A History of Efforts to fulfill the international Whaling Commission's Dual Responsibility (English (PDF) / French (PDF) )
- "Whale and Whaling" (Fisheries agency) English / Spanish / French (PDF)
- Whaling Affairs (Fisheries agency Website)
- Background and major points of the Japan's proposal for IWC Reform (PDF)
- Proposal for IWC Reform (PDF)
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.
- The argument that “Japan’s whaling drives whales to extinction” is inaccurate.
- The argument that “Japan versus the world” with regard to whaling is contrary to the facts.
- The argument that “Japan is not cooperating with the international community after withdrawing from the IWC” is inconsistent to the facts.
- Letter to the editor of Washington Post by the Press Secretary Mr. Osuga (PDF) (April 7, 2019)
- Letter to the editor of Los Angeles Time by Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Mr. Chiba (PDF) (January 3, 2019)
- Letter to the editor of New York Times by the Press Secretary Mr. Osuga (PDF) (December 31, 2018)