A Japanese whaling operator, after struggling for years to promote its products amid protests from conservationists, has found a new way to cultivate clientele and bolster sales: whale meat vending machines. The Kujira (Whale) Store, an unmanned outlet that recently opened in the port town of Yokohama near Tokyo, houses three machines for whale sashimi, whale bacon, whale skin, and whale steak, as well as canned whale meat, per the AP. Prices range from 1,000 yen ($7.70) to 3,000 yen ($23). The outlet features white vending machines decorated with cartoon whales and is the third location to launch in the Japanese capital region. It opened Tuesday after two others were introduced in Tokyo earlier this year as part of Kyodo Senpaku Co.'s new sales drive.
Whale meat has long been a source of controversy, but sales in the new vending machines have quietly gotten off to a good start, the operator says. Anti-whaling protests have subsided since Japan in 2019 terminated its much-criticized research hunts in the Antarctic and resumed commercial whaling off the Japanese coasts. Conservationists say they're worried the move could be a step toward expanded whaling. "The issue is not the vending machines themselves, but what they may lead to," said Nanami Kurasawa, head of the Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network.
Japan resumed commercial whaling in July 2019 after withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission, ending 30 years of what it called research whaling, which had been criticized by conservationists as a cover for commercial hunts banned by the IWC in 1988. Through its commercial whaling in the Japanese exclusive economic zone, Japan last year caught 270 whales, less than 80% of the quota and fewer than the number it once hunted in the Antarctic and the northwestern Pacific in its research program.
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