Japan recently announced that they would stop their humpback whale kill for the season. i don't honestly mind one way or the other on this issue. The planned kill was small enough that it wouldn't endanger the species, so it was fine by me.
The more interesting part is how much emotion gets involved in the debate on both sides. Essentially, the conflict i've heard is over their legal right to kill whales, which really comes down to a question of who and what is considered indigenous and traditional.
By the 1970s, the wordwide stock of whales was dangerously depleted, so International Whaling Commission (IWC) was created to control the whaling industry. The IWC's first act was to set a moratorium on all commercial whaling worldwide. Whale kills for continuous indigenous and scientific purposes was allowed.
Japanese whaling has continued on a smallish scale under the guise of science. To many this seems like a dishonest and somewhat evil way to pursue commercial interests. i think that it is a way for Japan to pursue indigenous rights denied to them by an odd definition of indigenous.
for some odd reason, the definition of indigenous implicitly includes "primitive" and "unrelated to money." so, ten guys in a canoe can use a high-powered rifle to kill several whales each year and give the take to their family and friend, but if they get a bigger boat or charge their friends and family for the whale products, all of a sudden it is illegal.
what is a community process of distribution of meat if not a simple commercial mechanism for distribution of goods and services? how is a big boat different from a canoe other than it being much safer for the whalers?
Japanese people have a long continuous cultural practice of whaling. They are indigenous to their land. They have as much right as any other indigenous population to a sustainable take of the whale population under the IWC moratorium. Their traditional indigenous process evolved and adapted superior technology as available, as traditional indigenous processes have always done.
So, as far as i can tell, Japan is denied its indigenous whaling rights because it is a modern nation.
This denial is so obviously unfair that Japan feels justified using the science excuse for their whaling.
i can't say that i blame them.