Japan wants to begin commercial hunting of Minke whales

So they say, but in fact, while they'd be delighted to start, the proposal is really designed as a stratagem designed simply to discredit the International Whaling Commission, which is certain to reject the proposal.*
The IWC has banned commercial whaling since 1986, and the Minke whales killed by Japan each year come under the category of research. 
It is said that Japan has been offering economic incentives to smaller nations to vote with them against the continued ban, ultimately to either overturn the ban or create a coalition to build a new, totally permissive commission.
And just what is involved in the hunting of Minke whales?
Here are the facts as I know them:
     The Minke whale hunt is not a chase in the traditional sense of whaling. It’s not iron men in wooden boats shouting “Thar she blows!” More like drunken men in factory ships. And she doesn’t blow. Minkes begin to exhale underwater, so there’s no spray to speak of or see.

     The Minkes stay close to the shore, rarely swimming more than 50 or 60 miles out, baleen-strainers living mostly on plankton. They are physically incapable of eating the codfish the whalers claim they deplete to justify their kills.

     They’re very gregarious and very vocal – the smallest of the humpback family, and like the humpbacks, they talk all the time, have their own language, their own shorter-distance songs.

     The hunters take up a position and wait for the whales to pass by. Making their choice, they kill it with an explosive grenade-tipped harpoon. There’s little risk -- Minkes are small, no more than 30 feet long or so, so there’s no desperate Moby Dick Nantucket sleigh ride to be had.

     Blue-grey on top and creamy pale beneath with a tiny dorsal fin, they’re hard to see, coming up briefly and quietly for less than a minute and then diving for another 20 minutes. The pregnant females or the females with just-born young come up more frequently for air, and because of that, they usually make up the majority of the kills.

No searching necessary -- the little whales are attracted to ships and often approach them, making the process relatively easy.

Here’s the reality as I see it:
     Saturday mornings on South Street in Philadelphia, big outdoor market day. The Minke migration is the same thing –- the whole family turning out to go to the market, eating, moving along, enjoying the day and each other ...  the Minke hunt the same as if it were happening to the shoppers on a bright Saturday on the South Street.
... young pregnant women clumsily gravid as they near full term, walking along, the produce men delighting in them, dropping gruff demeanors to offer, “Here, a fresh strawberry, take it, for the baby, it’s a perfect one, makes the perfect baby,” asking when the baby’s due. Or maybe a blueberry. Or a grape. Or a slice of melon. Whichever, the young mother-to-be would smile because the strawberry was delicious and she didn’t have to think about her ankles or having to pee again for a moment. 

And then suddenly, there would be shouts and alarm and everyone would scatter, but the soon-to-be-moms would be too slow, and the fat old grandpa’s too, and the shots would ring out, and BAM! Maria Teresa’s head explodes, hit by a harpoon, BAM! Old Giancarlo caught through the lungs. Children and other mothers crying and screaming hysterically, hiding, ashamed but terrified.

And then Maria Teresa would be strapped quickly around the ankles, her carcass dragged by a winch out through the street lot to the reefer truck. Hanging upside-down, first she would be gutted, the prime steaks cut off along with her unborn baby -- Marcello was going to be his name.

If there isn’t enough room in the truck, the extra meat - the junk meat, including Marcello – will be thrown to the dogs in the alley. Just as the sharks gather at sea to get what isn’t wanted.
Just as the Minke whale may also have a name for her unborn.
For more other-than-blase perspective on such matters:
Sea Shepherds --
Greenpeace --
Earth First
*Japan seeks commercial whaling OK, article by Alex Kirby, BBC News, World Edition, July 19, 2004 


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