A license system for the hunt was introduced in 1989 and catch quotas since 1993. The quota covers the hunting season of 1 August to 31 July, however catches in the past have been reported to the IWC from January to December, creating some confusion over whether annual quotas are actually observed.
The current quota of 16,312 porpoises is split between four prefectures: Iwate, Hokkaido, Aomori and Miyagi, with Iwate responsible for 99% of the truei-type hunt and 80% of the dalli-type hunt.
The meat and blubber – around 800 tonnes per year - is sold commercially throughout Japan, as well as locally. Meat from the hunt is primarily destined for human consumption although EIA investigations have indicated that some may be sold for use in pet foods or fertilizers.
EIA investigations have shown that, faced with the problem of a declining population and increased difficulty in finding porpoises, fishermen have resorted to increasingly damaging hunting strategies to reach their quotas. Dall’s porpoise hunters in Hokkaido told EIA investigators that their hunting strategy has changed in recent years, as the number of porpoises has apparently declined. The hunters chase down the porpoises, targeting female porpoises with calves, as females will not leave their calves and are therefore slower and easier to catch; calves left behind inevitably die. Hunters targeting lactating females are not only killing the female and next generation, they are also causing an unnatural shift in the age/sex balance of the population, with potentially devastating long-term consequences.
EIA investigations have also revealed a catalogue of abuses of the woefully inadequate catch reporting system, which has no independent system of monitoring or enforcement. A 1999 investigation that filmed the hunt out at sea and followed the processing and sale of porpoises in Iwate is documented in Senseless Slaughter .