Hiroshi Ota's article "Whaling Is Not Evil" (Free for All, Dec. 12) warrants a response.

For many years, Japan has said "We will stop whaling when the scientists recommend it." But now that the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission has recommended a zero quota for North Pacific sperm whales, Japan finds the quota "unacceptable." Even without the killing of 890 sperm whales, the scientific committee has shown that the population will continue to decline for at least 10 years. The additional slaughter by the Japanese will certainly prolong or imperil the recovery of this species. Japan must face up to the fact that commercial whaling for sperm whales has gone on too long, and that it is now time to let these animals return to healthy population levels.

Furthermore, while Ota maintains that commercial whalers pose no threat to any of the world's whale species, he fails to explain that, in combination with other threats, commercial whaling could cause extinction of these giants of the seas. For example, Japan is accelerating the harvest of krill, the shrimp-like food of almost all Antarctic whales, and there is serious scientific concern that this new fishery could deplete the food resource essential to the whales' continued existence.

Japan's objection to the IWC's ban on the use of cruel non-explosive ("cold") harpoons on minke whales suggests a last- ditch rush to exploit whale populations without incurring the expense needed to improve the technology. This hardly indicates that Japan expects its whaling industry to survive, and is particularly dismaying because Japan is an economical and technological colossus that could easily develop more humane methods of killing whales.

Whales are unique, fascinating and magnificant creatures that have suffered catastrophic declines because of the shortsightedness and greed of mankind. There is no justification--biological, economic or political--for nations (particularly wealthy nations such as Japan) to continue the anachronistic slaughter of the great whales. It is time to close the book on whaling.