The Japanese Parliament will today consider a bill which expresses the Government's desire to resume commercial whaling.
- Japan considers whaling a cultural right
- Proposed law won't change the number of whales caught
- Welfare groups criticise the proposed bill
"This bill lays down the necessary matters to carry out scientific research whaling in a stable and continuous way, in order to carry out commercial whaling," it reads.
Japan considers whaling to be a cultural right and conducts annual hunts in the Southern and Pacific oceans — under a loophole in International Whaling Commission rules which allows for scientific whaling.
Changing domestic law in Japan would not have any impact on the International Whaling Commission, which prohibits commercial whaling.
The bill seeks to enshrine funding for research whaling into the national budget as well as adding additional resources for defending Japanese whalers from protest groups like Sea Shepherd.
Yasuhiro Sanada, fisheries researcher at Waseda University in Tokyo, said whaling was a matter of pride for the Japanese.
"Why is Japan so persistent? It's the issue of nationalism," he said.
"Especially when Sea Shepherd carries out obstruction against the whaling vessel, quite a few people think that Japan is being attacked unreasonably."
Sea Shepherd published photographs it took of dead minke whales on board Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean a few months ago.
Professor Sanada said photographs like that were interpreted as anti-Japan, instead of anti-whaling.
"Many Japanese people are not interested in this issue, and the people who are interested in the issue are against anti-whaling protesters," he said.
"These feelings are even stronger than support for whaling."
The bill is titled: "Bill On the Implementation of Cetacean Scientific Research for the Resumption of Commercial Whaling".
Welfare groups protest against new law
Professor Sanada said there was a common misunderstanding the scientific whaling program was focused on counting whale populations so that a commercial whaling program might once again get the green light.
"Many Japanese politicians think that research whaling is necessary in order to resume commercial whaling in the future, and some still think that the whales are eating too many fish," he said.
Professor Sanada said if the bill passed into law, it would not have an impact on the numbers of whales Japan catches because that is controlled by international law.
"It means that Japan will continue research whaling from now on. The number of catch will not change," he said.
"It will not change the hunt that much, but it means they have a domestic legal support."
A coalition of animal welfare groups in Japan issued a statement protesting against the whaling law.
"The proposed bill ... is designed only to continue research whaling no matter what the cost — to either the whales, Japan's international reputation, or to the Japanese taxpayer," it said.
"Consequently, if this flawed bill goes ahead, our tax money will be spent on these wasteful programs every year, whilst damaging our relationships with otherwise friendly nations, and disgracing ourselves internationally."
The coalition has 12 Japanese signatories including Greenpeace Japan and the Animal Rights Centre.