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Letter to Ryozo Kato, Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States, Re: Hunting of Endangered Whales

Cantwell Urges End to Hunting of Protected Whales
Protected Humpback and Fin Whales Will be Hunted in the Antarctic Ocean for Research Purposes

Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and a group of her colleagues in sending a letter to Ryozo Kato, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan, asking the Japanese government to reconsider its intended hunt of endangered whales in Antarctica. The fleet intends to harvest 1,000 whales, including 50 threatened humpback whales protected by a worldwide moratorium since 1966. In addition to Cantwell and Boxer, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) Joseph Biden (D-DE), John Kerry (D-MA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Russ Feingold (D-WI) signed the letter.

"So-called scientific whaling shouldn't be used as an excuse to hunt these threatened animals," said Cantwell, who is Chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. "This letter needs to bring attention to the whaling practices in other countries. The international community needs to stand firm in opposing attempts to expand whaling to endangered species."

Although commercial whaling has been banned by the International Whaling Commission since 1986, Japan and Iceland have recently made aggressive use of a loophole in the Convention that allows countries to issue themselves permits for "scientific whaling". These permits are currently being used to justify killing whales in the name of science. Humpback whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction and although populations have increased, the World Conservation Union currently lists the humpback whale and the fin whale as vulnerable and endangered.

[The text of the letter follows below]
November 29, 2007

The Honorable Ryozo Kato
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
of Japan to the United States
2520 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Dear Ambassador Kato:

We write today to respectfully request that Japan reconsider its impending hunt of approximately 1,000 whales, including fin and protected humpback whales. As we understand, a Japanese whaling fleet is en route to the Antarctic Ocean to hunt these mammals over the next few months for what Japan has called research purposes. We are particularly concerned about the size and scope of the hunt, and the targeting of 50 humpback whales. This is the first time Japan has sought to kill this particular species since it was protected by a worldwide moratorium in 1966.

First and foremost, we believe there are other means available for Japan to undertake scientific research on whales and whale populations. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling, while providing an exemption for scientific research. While we acknowledge the exemption, we question the necessity of conducting a hunt of this magnitude, and are strongly opposed to the targeting of protected species. Non-lethal techniques exist that allow collection of necessary data to better understand whale populations, and we encourage Japan to conduct its research using these methods.

We also worry that Japan's proposed actions could inflict significant harm on vulnerable whale populations. Whales are highly migratory animals and a shared global resource. Humpback whales, known for their unique vocalizations and athleticism, were once hunted to the brink of extinction. And although populations have increased, the World Conservation Union currently lists the humpback whale and the fin whale as vulnerable and endangered, respectively.

As such, we join the growing chorus of world leaders and environmental experts in asking Japan to reconsider its decision to conduct this hunt, or, at a minimum, significantly scale back its scope. We also ask that Japan immediately cease the killing of both humpback and fin whales, and only employ non-lethal techniques for studying these populations. By pursuing these actions, Japan can continue to make significant scientific contributions, while conserving and protecting these important species.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request.


Maria Cantwell, Barbara Boxer, Joseph Biden, John Kerry, Olympia Snowe, Joe Lieberman, Ron Wyden and Russ Feingold

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