Japan's Whaling In Antarctica May Have Been Stopped, But They Are Still Being Killed By These Countries

A humpback whale off Sydney. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The end to Japan’s long run of whaling in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean doesn’t mean the harpoons have been mothballed.

Japan was the most visible whaling nation because each year it sent a fleet to the pristine Antarctic to catch mainly Minkes, an abundant smaller whale prized for its good eating.

And Japan was after 800 to 1,000 of them, each year.

The International Court of Justice decision stopping Japan’s whaling activities under the guise of scientific studies has no effect on others in the world who continue whaling. Both Iceland and Norway, at last report, still had small whaling activities.

According to the IFAW (International Fund For Animal Welfare) these are the countries still whaling:


Norway sets its own quota for the number of whales its whalers are permitted to kill for commercial reasons. This number has gone up and up, from being allowed to kill 671 minke whales in 2002 to more than 1,000 today. However, in recent years, less than half of this self-allocated catch limit has been taken.

Like Japan, Iceland initially conducted a ‘scientific’ whaling program. Then, in 1992, it withdrew from the International Whaling Commission. When Iceland re-joined in 2004, it included a clause in its re-entry that spoke out in objection to the whaling moratorium. In 2006, Iceland resumed commercial whaling, targeting minke and fin whales. In 2010 alone, Icelandic whalers killed 148 endangered fin whales and 60 minke whales.

On top of that, there are incidents of what’s called by-catch, especially in South Korea. This is when whales are “accidentally” caught and, rather than waste them, they end up in food markets.

And then there is the aboriginal whaling allowed under the rules of the International Whaling Commission. Several hundred whales are taken each year by indigenous communities which rely on whales for protein.

Denmark and the US are among the countries which still have indigenous whaling.

The International Whaling Commission uses scientific, cultural and nutritional information to decide whether to grant a quota to an indigenous community.

Since 1985, 9,393 whales have been caught under the aboriginal program.

Here’s the countries and the catch numbers for 2012:

Source: International Whaling Commission

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