Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Will new shipping rules shut down the Japanese whale hunt?

A recent news story warns that new regulations being considered by the International Maritime Organization may render the Japanese vessel the Nisshin Maru unable to legally operate. The Nisshin Maru is a ship used by the Japanese whaling program to process whale carcasses. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "The ship will fall foul of three new measures that will apply in Antarctic waters: the heavy fuel oil it uses will be banned; its hull-strength and safety will fail new requirements; and its annual dumping of thousands of tonnes of offal at sea will be
rejected in the global nature reserve." The article goes on to explain that Japan is typically very compliant with IMO regulations - more so than other nations. Although they may not be particularly cooperative within the International Whaling Commission, Japan is progressive in other environmental areas, so their adherence to shipping regulations is not too surprising.

And while certainly the Japanese seem committed enough to their whaling program to find a replacement for the Nisshin Maru that is up to code, it might be difficult to find a replacement vessel quickly. It would also be expensive, but the Japanese whaling program is already heavily subsidized, so it seems unlikely cost would really get in the way. At the very least, the prohibition on dumping in the Antarctic Treaty area might present a serious problem - the factory ships would be burdened with carrying more waste material and might not have room for as many whales. Since the IWC can't find a way to end whaling in the Southern Ocean, I'd be happy to see the IMO throw up some serious obstacles for Japan.

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