Periscope: Japan Seeks to Overturn Whaling Ban

As delegates from 81 countries converged on Chile for the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting, the host government left little doubt about where it stood on Japan's efforts to overturn the IWC's commercial-whaling moratorium. On June 23, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared whales a national monument and introduced legislation to make Chile's waters a permanent sanctuary where no whale or other marine mammal could ever be hunted or traded. The message to the visiting Japanese delegation was clear: no whaling on our watch.

Japan continues to risk international opprobrium over its hunts (which exploit an IWC loophole that allows for up to 1,000 whales a year to be killed for "scientific research," even though whale blubber keeps turning up on sushi menus and in school cafeterias in Japan). Tokyo is threatening to unilaterally resume whaling if the IWC doesn't relax its moratorium, which has been credited with ensuring the comeback of the endangered blue whale off Chile's coast (where it had been hunted to near extinction by Japanese whaling fleets). Japan is unlikely to succeed—changing the moratorium requires the approval of 75 percent of IWC nations. But isolation from the rest of the IWC has never deterred Japan, so the fight is likely to continue.