The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Seminars, Symposia, and Academic Conferences

Friday, November 30 ~Sunday,December 2, 2018
International Symposium “Whaling Activities and Issues in the Contemporary World”

Inupiat Bowhead Whale Hunt (A photo was taken near Barrow, Alaska in early May, 2010 by Nobuhiro Kishigami)

  • Date: November 30 (Friday) to December 2 (Sunday), 2018
    • November 30 and December 1: International Symposium
      (English, No simultaneous interpretation available)
    • December 2: Public Lecture
      (Japanese, No simultaneous interpretation available)
  • Venue: The Fourth Seminar Room, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan
  • Language: English(November 30 and December 1, 2018)and Japanese (December 2, 2018)
  • Theme: Various Whaling Activities and Whaling Issues in the Contemporary World
  • Inquiries:


This symposium aims at reporting and discussing various whaling activities and issues in the contemporary world, to understand changing human relationships with whales from several perspectives.
Whales are an informal grouping of the infraorder Cetacea, consisting of about 80 species or sub-species such as blue whale, sperm whale, small beluga, harbor porpoise, and so on. Humans have used whales for many purposes, most notably as food and industrial resources. Human-whale relationships are regionally and historically highly varied. In Japan, for example, dolphins have been harvested for at least the last 5,000 years, and in Alaska and Siberia whale harvesting by Iñupiat/Yupiit may have begun as early as 3,000 to 2,500 years ago. From medieval times until the 20th century, whales were used to provide food, lamp fuel, and for other purposes in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.
However, at the 1972 UN human-environment conference, in Stockholm, the representative of the USA argued that the environment could not be protected without protecting whales. This argument was further supported by environmental NGOs, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Greenpeace, and many countries adopted anti-whaling positions, no longer regarding whales as industrial resources. Thus, the conference was a symbolic turning point in a history of human relationships with whales.
In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) amended the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), an international agreement concerning the use and protection of large whales, by establishing a Moratorium on the harvesting of 13 species of large whales, beginning in 1986. As a consequence of this amendment the Government of Japan suspended commercial whaling in Antarctic waters in March, 1987, and off the coast of Japan in March of the following year. However, since that time neither pro- nor anti-whaling countries have obtained the three-fourths majority required to amend the Schedule, and commercial whaling remains highly contentious at IWC annual meetings.
Behind the political trends regarding the whaling issue, several international environment and animal protection NGOs have campaigned globally against commercial and other whaling activities. Since the late-20th century a feature of human relationships with whales began to change from whales as resources to those as a target of protection and/or preservation.
Although several Indigenous groups conduct whaling in Russia, the USA, Greenland, and St.Vincent and the Grenadines as “Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling” under the IWC, several Indigenous and local groups do so in Canada and Indonesia outside the IWC system. Also, many local and indigenous groups around the world engage in dolphin and porpoise harvesting, which is not controlled by the IWC. Japan carries out research whaling, and Norway and Iceland resumed commercial whaling with several conditions under IWC rules. These examples show that there are various whaling activities in many places. On the other hand, as several international environment and animal protection NGOs, such as WWF, Green Peace, Sea Shepard Conservation Society, have run various anti-whaling campaigns, they have influenced considerably many governments and general citizens around the world. This socio-political trend has made resumption of commercial whaling increasingly difficult, and began to influence negatively continuation of Indigenous and local small-scale whaling activities in many places.
This symposium discusses contemporary whaling situations and issues around the world. Also, it deals with various topics including international whaling politics, NGOs’ anti-whaling movements, animal welfare and animal rights issues concerning whale hunts, among others. We expect many people to understand and rethink historically changing human relationships with whales.
This symposium on contemporary whaling issues consists of two parts: a two-day international symposium in English and a one-day public symposium in Japanese.

This Symposium is organized by Nobuhiro Kishigami, The National Institutes for the Humanity and National Museum of Ethnology, Japan and is financially supported by the JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A). “An Anthropological Study of Whaling Cultures in the Globalizing World” (Grant Number: 15H02617) and the National Museum of Ethnology’s Joint Research Project “Whaling and Environmental Ethics” (2018).



* 25-minute Presentation and 20-minute Discussion

November 30, 2018
10:30~11:15 History and Contemporary Situations of Whaling in the World
 Nobuhiro Kishigami (National Museum of Ethnology, Japan)
Session 1 Indigenous and Local Small-Scale Whaling
11:15~12:00 Role and Importance of Bowhead Whaling in the Alaskan Arctic Subsistence Economy
 Hiroko Ikuta (Kyushu University, Japan)
12:00~13:00 Lunch Break
13:00~13:45 The Indigenous Whaling of Chukotka at the Turn of the Millennium
 Eduard Zdor (University of Alaska, Fairbanks, USA)
13:45~14:30 Whaling in Greenland: Yesterday and Today
 Shunwa Honda (The Open University of Japan)
14:30~15:00 Coffee Break
15:00~15:45 Dolphin Fishing and Utilization of Dolphins (Whales) in Iwate Prefecture
 Kenji Yoshimura (The University of Tokyo, Japan)
15:45~16:30 Contemporary Whaling in the Faroe Islands, its History and Challenges
 Russell Fielding (University of the South, USA)
16:30~16:40 Coffee Break
16:40~17:20 Comments and General Discussion
Welcome Reception at the museum
December 1, 2018
Session 2 Contemporary Commercial Whaling
10:30~11:15 Minke Whale Meat Supply Chain in Contemporary Norway
 Jun Akamine (Hitotsubashi University, Japan)
11:15~12:00 Return of Fin Whaling and Decline in Minke Whaling: Updating Situations and Problems of Commercial Whaling in Iceland
 Hisashi Hamaguchi (Sonoda Women’s College, Japan)
12:00~13:00 Lunch Break
Session 3 International Politics, Social Movement and Animal Ethics
13:00~13:45 The Politics of Whaling and the European Union: The Management of the Life and Death of Cetaceans and its Political Implications
 Minori Takahashi (Hokkaido University, Japan)
13:45~14:30 NGOs’Anti-Whaling Movement
 Motohiro Kawashima (Gunma University, Japan)
14:30~15:00 Coffee Break
15:00~15:45 Animal Welfare in the Execution of Hunting of Whales
 Egil Ole Øen (Wildlife Management Service)
15:45~16:30 The Ethical Dilemmas of Whaling - Contemporary Arguments and Positions
 Jes Lynning Harfeld (Aalborg University, Denmark)
16:30~17:20 Comments and General Discussion
Commentator: Tetsuji Iseda (Kyoto University, Japan)
December 2, 2018
Public Lecture "Considering Whaling Activities in the World" (in Japanese)
10:30~11:15 History and Contemporary Situations of Whaling
 Nobuhiro Kishigami (National Museum of Ethnology, Japan)
11:15~12:15 After the Cove
 Noriko Usuda
12:15~13:30 Lunch Break
13:30~14:00 History of Japanese Small-type Whaling
 Hajime Ishikawa (Science Academy of Shimonoseki, Japan)
14:00~14:30 Whale Conservation Activities in Japan
 Nanami Kurasawa (Dolphin and Whale Action Network, Japan)
14:30~14:45 Coffee Break
14:45~15:15 Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling
 Hisashi Hamaguchi (Sonoda Women’s College, Japan)
15:15~15:45 Anti-Whaling Activities in Southern Korea
 Sun-ae Ii (Miyazaki Municipal University, Japan)
15:45~16:15 Road to Resumption of Commercial Whaling
 Atsushi Ishii (Tohoku University, Japan)
16:15~17:15 Comments and General Discussion
Commentator: Junko Sakuma (Journalist)