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Japan OKs hunting endangered fin whales as whale meat vending machines grow more popular

Published May 15th, 2024 8:47PM EDT
whale meat vending machine
Image: Syda Productions / Adobe

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Fin whales are some of the largest whales in the ocean. These massive whales were among the most popular targets for whalers up until the last century, when fin whales were listed as an endangered species. However, Japan has shared plans to start hunting these vulnerable whales again as a key way to keep its whale meat vending machines stocked.

Five years ago, Japan ramped up its commercial whaling operations, even going so far as to open vending machines across the country that offer the delicate meat of the massive mammals as a meal for consumers. Now, though, the country is taking things a step further by opening up commercial whaling to fin whales.

There is, obviously, a lot of concern here from conservationists, who argue that the decisions to increase these whaling quotas, and even make it open season on endangered and vulnerable species like the fin whale is extremely irresponsible and only increases the risk that these species will go extinct (via Discover Wildlife).

This isn’t the first time that Japan has gone after endangered species of whale, though. When the country re-opened its commercial whaling operations, it began targeting three different species, the minke, Bryde’s, and sei whales. While those first two are considered “of least concern” by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, the sei is considered a vulnerable species.

These kinds of operations, of course, only add to the pressures that these species are already feeling from the climate crisis, ocean pollution, and shipping traffic. It seems a bit of a silly thing to put these entire species at risk just so people can walk up to whale meat vending machines and walk away with meaty treat.

2021’s catch quota for its whaling operations was around 171 minke whales, 187 Bryde’s whales, and 25 sei whales, reports indicate. Those quotas are likely only going to increase, too, as Japan targets other endangered species, like the fin whale.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshimasa Hayashi, says that whale meat is part of “traditional food culture” in Japan and that it is important to preserve it. While that’s certainly a good argument, does it really call for an ever-expanding array of whale meat vending machines to pull that off?

Pushing an entire species to extinction to preserve it doesn’t sound like a smart play. Others argue that whale meat didn’t even take off in Japan until after World War 2 when other meat was scarce. Conservationists also worry that this move will make other countries turn to wild animals such as whales and dolphins as possible food sources as climate change increase the chance of poverty and hunger striking developing countries.

While Japan is irresponsibly planning to hunt a vulnerable species to fill its whale meat vending machines, others are seeking to revive extinct species, like the woolly mammoth.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.