For many years, hunting whale has been a tradition in several countries. But in the 1800s and 1900s, whalers had almost killed all of some types of whales. To stop whales from going extinct, several countries joined together in the 1960s and formed a group called the International Whaling Commission, also called the IWC. The IWC agreed in 1986 that whales should only be hunted in a few cases, like when a group of people rely on whale meat for food or for scientific research.
Japan was a member of the IWC, and for 31 years, whaling was illegal unless it was for research. In July, though, Japan left the IWC and whaling is legal again – so long as it’s not in international waters. As long as Japanese whalers stay within about 12 miles of Japan, they can do whatever Japan allows. But not everyone is happy about it, and some are worried that those who want whale hunting to be illegal might take Japan to court.
Last year, Japan claimed to be hunting for research, and they couldn’t take any more than 332 whales. But the first commercial hunt this year only brought in 52 mink whales, 150 Bryde’s whales, and 25 sei whales. Of the three, only sei whales are still considered endangered; however, their numbers are increasing. Since Japan left the IWC and will have to stay to their own waters, this may also cut down on the number of whales caught.