Japan managed to buy enought votes at the recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission to pass a resolution declaring that the moratorium on whaling was meant to be temporary and is no longer needed. The resolution is not all that significant from a practical standpoint - it takes a super-majority to actually end the moratorium, and Japan's going to have to bribe a bunch more countries before they hit that mark. However, it apparently did enough for the morale of the Japanese whalers enough for them to unilaterally declare that they are going to increase their "scientific" whale hunt.
Scientific is in quotes up there for good reason - the hunting of Minke Whales has been going on for decades, with hundreds killed each year. Under a loophole in the Whaling Commission moratorium that is big enough to sail a factory ship through with room to spare, the whales that are killed for "research" purposes can be sold for food once the research has been completed. This has lead the Japanese, who make no secret of their desire to keep whale meat on their tables, to conduct such monumentally important research as this:
Chemical composition of the edible parts of minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata
Iida, Haruka; Murata, Yuko; Matsumoto, Goro; Toda, Satoshi; Yamashita, Yumiko; Yokoyama, Masahito
Bulletin of the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science [Bull. Natl. Res. Inst. Fish. Sci.]. no. 11, pp. 27-36. 1998.
The chemical composition of red meat, ventral groove meat and blubber of minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata caught in the Antarctic Ocean were analysed. Some pollutants such as total mercury and chloric pesticides in those materials were also examined. The results are as follows. 1. The red meat was rich in protein, but low in lipids and cholesterol. However, the ventral groove meat and blubber contained large amounts of lipids and cholesterol. 2. The selenium content in the three body parts were greater than values reported for domestic animal meat, and were similar to the contents in fish. However, there was no obvious relationship between the selenium content and heavy metal contents in the specimens analyzed. 3. Polyunsaturated fatty acids constituted 22-31% of total fatty acids. Fatty acid composition of the whale lipid was more similar to that of fish rather than domestic animals. 4. The dominant free amino acid in the red meat was balenine. 5. Levels of total mercury and chloric pesticides in whale meat were very low .
Yes, you read this right. The Japanese are killing whales for research purposes - the only method of whale hunting currently allowed - to examine the question of what is in the edible parts of the whale. That's definitely a critical research question right there.
Appearently, though, they're not satisfied with that Nobel-quality work. They need more data, and to get it, they're going to hunt more whales. This year, they're going to increase the count to 10 Fin Whales and nearly 1000 Southern Minkes. In the next two years, they're going to up their take to a total of 40 fins, and 50 Humpbacks. That's right - Humpbacks, which are still an endangered species.
But they want us to trust them to regulate themselves well enough to let them hunt more whales.