ARTIST 5 (PROJECT 3):
PARIS — A life-size installation of a giant blue whale has been erected on the Left Bank of the Seine, intended as a reminder to negotiators at the international climate conference here that the fate of threatened species is also in their hands. For the teams that built the 110-foot metal sculpture in the image of Bluebelle, as the great beast was named when caught a century ago, the message has also become a timely protest. On Dec. 1, as world leaders gathered here to address the climate conference, Japan’s whaling fleet set sail for its annual hunting season in the Antarctic.
Japan is not the only country to ignore public pleas and international conventions by continuing the centuries-old practice of killing whales; Iceland and Norway are among others. But critics say Japan is the only nation that labels its commercial hunt as “research.” And this month, when a factory ship and three fast harpoon vessels left Japan on their way to the Antarctic, the Japanese ignored a ban on this activity issued by the International Court of Justice, the United Nations court in The Hague.Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, but the International Whaling Commission made an exception for whale hunting for scientific research. However, in a case brought by Australia, the international court ruled in 2014 that, while Japan had killed thousands of whales since 1987 in the name of research, its program had produced little science and was therefore illegal under international law.
To sidestep the court ruling, Japan has renamed the program and reduced its hunting targets by two-thirds. But on the eve of the Paris summit meeting, it announced that to research the health of whales and their habitat, it plans to kill close to 4,000 minke whales in the Antarctic region over the next 12 years.
Conservationist groups here, including Un Cadeau pour la Terre (A Gift to the Earth) and Biome, which built Bluebelle and an attendant exhibit near the Pont des Invalides over the Seine, have seized on Japan’s latest move as further proof that only concerted international pressure can overrule narrow national interests and avert the rapid decline of many species.