Institute of Cetacean Research

Chūō-ku, Japan

Institute of Cetacean Research

Chūō-ku, Japan
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News Article | March 24, 2016

Japan has confirmed the killing of more than 300 whales, 200 of which were pregnant females during its latest whaling mission. The announcement was made as ships from Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, which were in the Antarctic region since December 2015, returned Thursday from a "scientific" expedition, which the ICR claims is being done in the name of science. The Fisheries Agency said that the four-ship whaling fleet has returned to Shimonoseki in southwestern Japan having achieved the goal of taking 333 minke wales, 103 of which were males and 230 females. Of the mature females captured, 90 percent were pregnant. "The number of pregnant females is consistent with previous hunts, indicating that the breeding situation of minke whales in the Antarctic is healthy," the Fisheries Agency said in a statement. Japan's new quota is significantly fewer compared with its annual kill limit of 935 whales in the past. The reduction appears to have been influenced by criticisms and calls against the country's whaling practices. Eating whale is part of Japan's culture and the country has long claimed that most species of whale are not endangered. Its whaling practices though have long been a subject of criticism and its latest decision to conduct another whaling expedition is a defiance of the International Court of Justice ruling that declared the Antarctic whaling illegal. Many believe that Japan's whaling expeditions are not for scientific purpose. Australian Marine Conservation Society Director Darren Kindleysides said that international experts have examined Japan's so-called scientific research and found it was just a guise for killing whales. It appears, however, that the hunts are neither motivated by a market for whale meat. Although most of the meat from whale hunts ends up on shop shelves, many Japanese no longer eat them. Demand and consumption for whale meat per person has declined to just about 50 grams in 2005 from 2,000 grams in 1967 prompting shops in Japan to reduce the prices of whale meat by half in 2009 so as to move stockpiles. Japan plans to take nearly 4,000 whales for the next 12 years as part of its research program. It has also acknowledged looking forward for the resumption of commercial whaling.

News Article | August 25, 2016

The founder of a radical conservation group made famous by the television show "Whale Wars" says a settlement over anti-whaling activities only prevents the group's U.S. organization from interfering with Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. This week, Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research and a whale ship operator announced they'd reached an agreement with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its founder Paul Watson. "What it means is Sea Shepherd USA cannot contribute money toward the Southern Ocean campaign, cannot be involved in the Southern Ocean campaign, and that's fine. We've got plenty of other campaigns to do," said Watson, who recently returned to the U.S. and is living in Vermont. But he said the settlement doesn't affect the group's other entities. "Whether Sea Shepherd Australia or Sea Shepherd Global ... if they intend to return to the Southern Ocean that's their business, it's not ours and I can't control them," he said of the settlement filed on Tuesday. The Institute of Cetacean Research, which studies whales, also is paying an undisclosed amount to the anti-whaling group on the condition the money will not be transferred to its affiliates elsewhere, including in Australia, one of the most active in attacking Japanese whalers during their hunts in the Antarctic. Officials in Japan are hoping the funding restriction will somehow limit the extent of Sea Shepherd's activities in Australia. Agriculture Minister Yuji Yamamoto on Thursday welcomed the agreement, saying, "I take it as a positive development that would contribute to the safety of the research whaling fleet." Yamamoto, however, said that Japanese whalers should continue to use caution and be aware that there are staunch opponents of whaling. Sea Shepherd Global media director Heather Stimmler said all of its entities around the world — except those in the United States — will continue to oppose what it believes is illegal Japanese whaling in the Antarctic. The International Whaling Commission imposed a commercial ban on whaling in 1986, but Japan has continued to kill whales under an exemption for what the country says is research. Interpol lists Watson as being wanted in Japan on charges of conspiracy to trespass on a whaling ship and interference with business, and in Costa Rica on a charge of interfering with a shark finning operation. Watson was arrested in Germany but then fled to France when he heard that he would be extradited to Japan. In his home office in landlocked Vermont, surrounded by artifacts from his journeys, the 65-year-old Watson said he will continue to coordinate with other Sea Shepherd entities. He's also writing several books and is involved in future television programs. Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report. Content Item Type: NewsSummary: The founder of a radical conservation group made famous by a television show says a settlement over anti-whaling activities only prevents the group's U.S. organization from interfering with Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. Featured Image: Contributed Author: By Lisa Rathke, Associated PressMeta Keywords: Sea Shepherd, Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd Global, Japanese whalers, Southern Ocean campaign, Sea Shepherd Conservation, Sea Shepherd USA, International Whaling Commission, Sea Shepherd Australia, founder Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd entities, Cetacean Research, Shepherd Global media, radical conservation group, whale ship operator, Minister Yuji Yamamoto, Japanese whaling, writer Mari Yamaguchi, shark finning operation, director Heather Stimmler, future television programs, 65-year-old Watson, Whale Wars, U.S. organization, anti-whaling activities, staunch opponents, anti-whaling group, funding restriction, positive development, United States, commercial ban, home office, Costa Rica, settlement, Antarctic, agreement, whales, money, business, Vermont, exemption, caution, Interpol, Society, extent, interference, condition, hunts, plenty, AgricultureExclusive: 

Sasaki H.,Hokkaido University | Murase H.,Japan National Research Institute of Fisheries And Environment of Inland Sea | Kiwada H.,Institute of Cetacean Research | Matsuoka K.,Institute of Cetacean Research | And 2 more authors.
Fisheries Oceanography | Year: 2013

Two closely related baleen whale species, sei and Bryde's whales, in the western North Pacific were studied to identify differences in habitat use. Data were obtained from May to August 2004 and 2005. This study examined the relationship between oceanographic features derived from satellite data and the distribution of sei and Bryde's whales using basic statistics. We investigated oceanographic features including sea surface temperature (SST), sea surface chlorophyll a (Chl-a), sea surface height anomalies (SSHAs), and depth of the habitat. These two whale species used habitats with different SST, Chl-a, and SSHA ranges. The 0.25 mg m-3 Chl-a contour (similar to the definition of the Transition Zone Chlorophyll Front) was a good indicator that separated the habitats of sei and Bryde's whales. Then generalized linear models were used to model the probabilities that the whale species would be present in a habitat and to estimate their habitat distribution throughout the study area as a function of environmental variables. The potential habitats of the two species were clearly divided, and the boundary moved north with seasonal progression. The habitat partitioning results indicated that SST contributed to the patterns of habitat-use and might reflect differences in prey species between the two whales. This study showed that the habitats of the sei and Bryde's whales were clearly divided and their potential habitat-use changed seasonally. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Glover K.A.,Norwegian Institute of Marine Research | Kanda N.,Institute of Cetacean Research | Haug T.,Norwegian Institute of Marine Research | Pastene L.A.,Institute of Cetacean Research | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

The Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), and the common minke whale found in the North Atlantic (Balaenoptera acutorostrata acutorostrata), undertake synchronized seasonal migrations to feeding areas at their respective poles during spring, and to the tropics in the autumn where they overwinter. Differences in the timing of seasons between hemispheres prevent these species from mixing. Here, based upon analysis of mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA profiles, we report the observation of a single B. bonaerensis in 1996, and a hybrid with maternal contribution from B. bonaerensis in 2007, in the Arctic Northeast Atlantic. Paternal contribution was not conclusively resolved. This is the first documentation of B. bonaerensis north of the tropics, and, the first documentation of hybridization between minke whale species. © 2010 Glover et al.

Nakamura G.,Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology | Kato H.,Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology | Fujise Y.,Institute of Cetacean Research
Mammal Study | Year: 2012

The allometric growth pattern of 666 common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) collected in the North Pacific was investigated by comparing skull length and skull width with body length. For comparison, skull length and skull width in relation to body length were analyzed in 3 Balaenopteridae species (B. musclus, B. physalus, and B. borealis). The generalized linear model was adapted for evaluating the effects of sex and sexual maturity status on growth patterns. The skull proportion of large Balaenoptera whales (B. musculus and B. physalus) showed positive allometry, but that of the common minke whale showed negative allometry, despite being related species. Such differences in intraspecific growth patterns could be the result of adaptation driven by feeding strategy. © The Mammal Society of Japan.

Pastene L.A.,Institute of Cetacean Research | Goto M.,Institute of Cetacean Research
Fisheries Science | Year: 2016

The population genetic structure of the Antarctic minke whale in the Antarctic sector corresponding to the Indo-Pacific was investigated using the mitochondrial DNA control region sequence (338 bp) and microsatellite DNA at 12 loci. Whale samples were obtained in JARPAII (Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic—Phase II) surveys performed during the austral summer seasons of 2005/06 to 2010/11. The “Indian Sector” comprised the area between 35° and 130°E, while the “Pacific Sector” was between 165°E and 145°W. The mtDNA/nDNA sample sizes in the Indian and Pacific sectors were 1210/1372 and 795/882 animals, respectively. The level of genetic diversity was high for both genomes, and was similar for the two sectors. In both sectors, the mismatch distribution for whales did not suggest a population at equilibrium. Results of a heterogeneity test showed significant genetic differences between whales in the two sectors, suggesting that different populations inhabit the Pacific and Indian sectors of the Antarctic. Microsatellite DNA analyses showed more dispersal in males than females, and also some degree of annual variation. Significant departure from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium suggested some geographical overlap of the populations in the feeding grounds. The two populations identified in the Antarctic feeding areas of the Indian and Pacific sectors could be related to the suggested breeding areas in the eastern Indian Ocean and western South Pacific, respectively. The segregation of the populations in the Antarctic feeding grounds could be explained by the fidelity of whales to specific areas with krill concentrations. © 2016 Japanese Society of Fisheries Science

PubMed | Institute of Cetacean Research, University of Bergen and Norwegian Institute of Marine Research
Type: Journal Article | Journal: BMC genomics | Year: 2017

In the marine environment, where there are few absolute physical barriers, contemporary contact between previously isolated species can occur across great distances, and in some cases, may be inter-oceanic. An example of this can be seen in the minke whale species complex. Antarctic minke whales are genetically and morphologically distinct from the common minke found in the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the two species are estimated to have been isolated from each other for 5 million years or more. Recent atypical migrations from the southern to the northern hemisphere have been documented and fertile hybrids and back-crossed individuals between both species have also been identified. However, it is not known whether this represents a contemporary event, potentially driven by ecosystem changes in the Antarctic, or a sporadic occurrence happening over an evolutionary time-scale. We successfully used whole genome resequencing to identify a panel of diagnostic SNPs which now enable us address this evolutionary question.A large number of SNPs displaying fixed or nearly fixed allele frequency differences among the minke whale species were identified from the sequence data. Five panels of putatively diagnostic markers were established on a genotyping platform for validation of allele frequencies; two panels (26 and 24 SNPs) separating the two species of minke whale, and three panels (22, 23, and 24 SNPs) differentiating the three subspecies of common minke whale. The panels were validated against a set of reference samples, demonstrating the ability to accurately identify back-crossed whales up to three generations.This work has resulted in the development of a panel of novel diagnostic genetic markers to address inter-oceanic and global contact among the genetically isolated minke whale species and sub-species. These markers, including a globally relevant genetic reference data set for this species complex, are now openly available for researchers interested in identifying other potential whale hybrids in the worlds oceans. The approach used here, combining whole genome resequencing and high-throughput genotyping, represents a universal approach to develop similar tools for other species and population complexes.

Hakamada T.,Institute of Cetacean Research | Matsuoka K.,Institute of Cetacean Research | Nishiwaki S.,Institute of Cetacean Research | Kitakado T.,Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management | Year: 2014

The Japanese Whale Research Programme under Special Permit in the Antarctic (JARPA) conducted sighting surveys during the 1989/90 to 2004/05 austral summer seasons (mainly in January and February), alternating between 1WC management Areas IV (70°E-130°E) and V (130°E-170°W), both south of 60°S each (split-)ycar. These data arc analysed to obtain abundance estimates for Antarctic minkc whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) in these Areas. The estimates are calculated by standard line transect analysis methods using the program DISTANCE under the assumption that g(0) = 1. Annual rates of increase in abundance are estimated using log-linear models. The analyses take several recommendations from the 2006 JARPA Review Meeting into consideration. Those addressed here aim to: (a) improve the point estimates of abundance and their precision; and (b) evaluate (through sensitivity tests) the effect of different factors associated with the JARPA survey on the estimates of abundance and trend. GLM models are used to adjust for different strata being surveyed at different times of year over the duration of JARPA, with model selection being based on AICc. Abundance estimates for Arca IV range from 16,562 (CV = 0.542) in 1997/98 to 44,945 (CV = 0.338) in 1999/00, while those for Arca V range from 74,144 (CV = 0.329) in 2004/05 to 151,828 (CV = 0.322) in 2002/03. Estimates of the annual rates of increase in abundance arc 1.8% with a 95% CI of [-2.5%, 6.0%] for Area IV and 1.9% with a 95% CI of [-3.0%, 6.9%] for Arca V. Estimates of these trends are robust to the effects of changes in survey timing, the shapes of the shoulders of detection functions, portions of survey tracklines following the ice edge, parts of the Areas in which no survey took place and poor coverage within some strata. Adjustments to allow for the g(0) being less than 1 arc made by the application of a regression model, developed from the results of the Okamura-Kitakado (OK) method estimate of minke whale abundance from the IDCR-SO WER surveys, which provides estimates of g(0) from the statistics of the minkc whale school size distribution in a stratum. With this adjustment, abundance estimates increase by an average of32,333 (106%) for Arca IV and 89,245 (86%) for Area V, while the estimates of annual rates of increase and their 95% CIs change slightly to 2.6% [-1.5%,6.9%] for Arca IV and 1.6% [-3.4%,6.7%] for Arca V.

It is no secret that Japan continues to send whaling expeditions to Antarctica despite international criticism. As reported by Tech Times, Japan on Thursday confirmed the killing of more than 300 minke whales — 200 of which were pregnant. Ships from Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research returned from an almost four month-long hunting mission under the guise of scientific research. The expeditions, however, are considered defiance of the International Court of Justice ruling which declared that whaling in Antarctica is illegal. Japan's decision to send whaling expeditions has received criticism from different countries. Greg Hunt, Environment Minister in Australia, said the country condemns the act. "We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called 'scientific research,'" said Hunt. United Kingdom's ministry for environment Defra also expressed its disappointment with Japan's decision. "This undermines the global ban on commercial whaling which the UK strongly supports," the ministry said. But why does Japan do it, anyway? Japan has not ignored the IC Justice ruling, but that doesn't mean it completely followed it either. In November 2015, the country said its "scientific" whaling program will only take 333 minke whales. BBC news reported that the whale meat from the expedition "ends up on the plate." And yet other reports say that Japanese consumers are not really clamoring for it. A Wired report said that the consumption of whale meat in Japan stands at 4,000 to 5,000 tons every year. Consider the fact that Japan consumes about 600 million tons of seafood annually, indicating that meat from the sea mammals occupy "small" place on the country's dinner plate. The nation's whaling program is also quite miniscule. The American Cetacean Society said that the global population of minke whales is currently at more than 1 million. Japan has taken 3,600 minke whales since the launch of its scientific research program. Some experts believe that the 333 minke whales that Japan takes every year is not likely to impact the population of the sea mammals. The Japanese aren't the only ones hunting whales. Norwegian whalers are also hunting minke whales, and their quota is a whopping 1,000 every year. The same goes for Icelandic whalers. According to a paper [pdf] by Keiko Hirata, a political scientist from California State University Northridge, there are two factors as to why Japan's is still pushing through its whaling missions: cultural and political. First, the Japanese do not see minke whales as charismatic sea mammals in need of protection from consumption. Hirata said that in Japanese, the symbol for whale — which is pronounced as kujira — includes within it a component that means fish. "Most Japanese lack any special love of whales and disagree with Western animal rights activists who insist on whales' rights," said Hirata, adding that most of them consider it hypocritical that Westerners kill kangaroos and baby cattle while saying that it is morally wrong to kill whales. Second, maintaining Japan's whaling efforts is an act of maintaining political turf. The expeditions are overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, and Hirata said if the program is ended, the officials will be out of work. Hirata concluded that Japan is not likely to change its stance in the near future. As of today, minke whales are not endangered. In December 2015, Australia and other countries have challenged Japan over its whaling program, threatening to pursue legal action.

News Article | December 1, 2015

A whale is captured by the Yushin Maru, a Japanese harpoon vessel. This image was taken by Australian customs agents in 2008, under a surveillance effort to collect evidence of indiscriminate harvesting, which is contrary to Japan's claim that More Japan sent two whaling ships back to Antarctica's Southern Ocean today (Dec. 1) after a one-year hiatus, resuming seasonal whale hunts that have come under increasing scrutiny and censure from the international community. Under a revised whaling plan, Japan proposes to kill 333 minke whales this year for research purposes — significantly fewer than past years' annual kill limit of 935 whales. Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), which oversees the country's whaling program, stated on its website that researchers will study the whales' fish consumption and measure their competition with fisheries, creating ecosystem models for managing marine resources. "The purpose of Japan's research is science — science that will ensure that when commercial whaling is resumed, it will be sustainable," ICR claimed on its website. However, statements from environmental officials in Australia and the United States express skepticism that killing any whales is necessary for data collection. Greg Hunt, Australia's minister for the environment, said in a statement that the Australian government "strongly opposes" Japan's decision to return to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales. He added that the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) Scientific Committee put forward "significant questions about the science underpinning Japan's new whaling plan, [called] NEWREP-A, which are yet to be satisfactorily addressed." [To Protect Whales, US Diplomacy Needs Teeth (Op-Ed)] From the U.S., Russell F. Smith III, deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. commissioner to the IWC, expressed similar concerns. "Japan had not justified the need for lethal whaling to carry out its research," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, rather than giving itself time to modify its research program to fully address these issues, Japan has decided to restart its program now." Commercial whaling conducted by most countries ended decades ago, following a 1986 ban issued by the IWC, a global organization empowered to manage whaling industries, evaluate threats to whale populations and oversee conservation. But the IWC permits whaling in international waters if the hunt is conducted for research purposes. Soon after the 1986 ban, Japan launched its scientific whaling program, conducted by the Institute of Cetacean Research. According to the IWC's guidelines for the research permits, the Institute of Cetacean Research is allowed to process byproducts of the whaling program, such as whale meat, and sell it for consumption. In 1994, the IWC designated the Southern Ocean as a whale sanctuary, but Japanese officials claimed that their research program provided exemption, even in the newly protected area. The hunts continued, and approximately 14,000 whales were killed between 1986 and 2014, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Australia has long been a vocal critic of Japanese whaling, and in 2008, the country successfully banned Japan's whaling fleets from the Australian Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica. In 2010, Australia went even further, bringing action against Japan in the International Court of Justice to halt the scientific whaling program in its entirety. In 2014, Australia appeared to win a significant victory, as the International Court of Justice found that Japan's "scientific" research failed to meet the standards laid out by the IWC, and the court ordered a halt to the whaling. In spite of the ruling, Japanese whaling vessels Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru No. 2 departed from Shimonoseki Port for the Southern Ocean. Two more ships are scheduled to join them, bringing the total number of crewmembers on the whaling mission to 160. Their work is scheduled to begin later this month, though not without close scrutiny on the global stage. "The United States will continue to engage with the Government of Japan in an effort to address U.S. concerns with Japan's new lethal research program," Smith said. "We believe all of Japan's primary research objectives can be met through nonlethal activities and continue to oppose their scientific whaling programs." Follow Mindy Weisberger on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science. Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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