Japan cull threatens humpback recovery, researchers say

DESPITE the increase in humpback numbers along the East Coast of Australia, whale researchers Wally and Trish Franklin are concerned Japan's announcement to resume whale culling in the Southern Ocean could have a devastating impact on the marine mammal's population.

"Potentially they could seriously affect those numbers," Mr Franklin said.

"We know that the Soviet whaling fleet towards the end of the last period of whaling used a large factory ship and small chaser ships, which is exactly the same industrial structure Japan is using."

Mr Franklin said 25,000 humpback whales were taken in two seasons - 1959-60 and 1960-61 - by the Soviet fleet, of which only 5000 were reported to the International Whaling Commission.

"The Japanese fleet is capable of literally wiping out the whole population in one or two seasons," he said.

"It remains a grave risk to our Eastern Australian humpbacks.

"Australians have embraced these whales … so there's no question the Australian public will be on the back of the Federal Government if Japan does end up going back down there as they've stated they will."

Japan's whaling announcement was made on the final day of the International Whaling Commission meeting in March which found the Japanese whaling program was not scientific and in breach of the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Japan said it would modify its program to adhere to the rulings.

Mr Franklin said any humpback whale culling in the Southern Ocean feeding grounds would put added pressure on population recovery.



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