Researchers in Japan have used grenade-tipped harpoons to kill hundreds of whales for alleged scientific research.
Japanese whalers harpooned 333 minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean – 122 of whom were pregnant – between December 2017 and January.
An additional 11 whales were targeted but narrowly escaped.
The harpoons used to kill the whales were fitted with exploding grenades.
The field survey conducted jointly by the Institute of Cetacean Research, Japanese fishery Kyodo Senpaku and Tokyo University looked at the sexual maturity and reproductive abilities of minke whales.
Researchers weighed one testis in male whales and if it was over 400grams, the whale was deemed sexually mature.
Female whales were classified into five categories – ‘ovulating’, ‘pregnant’, ‘resting’, ‘lactating’ and ‘pregnant and lactating’ – after their ovary, uterus, and mammary gland were examined.
Other body parts including earplugs (wax buildup in the ears), umbilical cords, baleen plates, ocular lenses, skin, ovaries, muscle, liver and skin blubber were “collected” and stored by the researchers.
The study – approved by the International Whaling Commission – only detailed how earplugs were collected from the whales.
“The external auditory meatus was carefully cut open so as not to incise the earplug, and then the earplug was collected with glove-finger using a scalpel.”
The study listed several reasons why researchers wanted to sample the different whale body parts.
They included age estimation, DNA analysis, histological observation, feeding ecology and reproductive and genetic studies.
In March 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared Japan’s whaling program illegal and ordered it to stop killing whales for scientific purposes.
Instead of complying with the international order, Japan removed itself from the jurisdiction of the ICJ and continued its Antarctic whaling program which first began in 1987.
Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg condemned the research and urged Japan to bring a permanent end to all forms of whaling and to promote whale conservation.
“The Australian government is deeply disappointed that Japan continues to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” he said.
The federal government previously initiated proceedings against Japan in the ICJ and in December 2017, Australia led 39 other countries to urge Japan to cease whaling.
“We are leading efforts in the Commission to ensure their whaling programs are subject to greater scrutiny,” Minister Frydenberg said.