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Japan to allow hunting endangered fin whales to keep its whale meat vending machines stocked — here's why it matters

Five years ago, Japan restarted its commercial whaling operations.

Five years ago, Japan restarted its commercial whaling operations.

Photo Credit: iStock

In a move that has shocked conservationists, Japan has announced plans to allow the hunting of endangered fin whales.

What's happening?

Japan has said it intends to allow the hunting of endangered fin whales, some of the largest whales in the ocean.

This decision comes as the country opens more and more vending machines selling whale meat snacks across the country, according to BGR.

Five years ago, Japan restarted its commercial whaling operations, targeting sei, minke, and Bryde's whales. While the latter two species are of "least concern," the sei whale is considered vulnerable.

Now, as BGR reported, Japan is expanding its whale hunt to include the endangered fin whale.

Why is whale hunting concerning?

Conservationists argue that increasing whaling quotas and targeting endangered species like the fin whale is extremely irresponsible. It puts these majestic animals at even greater risk of extinction.

Fin whales and other whale species are already facing immense pressure from rising global temperatures, pollution, and shipping traffic. Hunting them for food seems like an unnecessary added strain just so people can grab a whale meat snack from a vending machine.

Japan's 2021 whaling quotas were already high — 171 minke whales, 187 Bryde's whales, and 25 vulnerable sei whales, as BGR reported. As Japan now adds endangered fin whales to the menu, those numbers will likely only climb.

Some argue that whale meat is part of Japan's traditional food culture. But records show whale only became popular there after World War II meat shortages, and either way, traditions need not remain in place forever if they are causing some form of harm.

Environmentalists worry Japan's move could spur other nations to start hunting whales and dolphins for food as extreme weather events cause widespread poverty and hunger. That's a problem worth addressing, but there are better and less resource-intensive ways to address it in the agriculture world. 

There are also concerns that Japan's actions could undermine global efforts to protect whales and their ocean habitats. If more countries follow suit and increase commercial whaling, it could have devastating ripple effects on already strained whale populations.

What can I do to stop whaling?

Consider supporting organizations working to safeguard whales and preserve their ocean homes. You can also use your voice as a consumer — if you come across any whale meat products, take a pass. Making ethical and sustainable seafood choices helps send the message that endangered species belong in the wild, not on our plates or in vending machines, as opposed to incentivizing it by adding to the sales demand.

We share this incredible blue planet with some of the most magnificent creatures on Earth. If we all do our part, we can ensure whales continue to grace our oceans for generations to come. The choice is ours — and the stakes couldn't be higher.

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