Japan 'mulling IWC withdrawal' to resume commercial whaling

Cristina Cross
December 22, 2018

However, as Lucy Craft reported for NPR in 2010, "Japan's whaling rhetoric is rooted in national pride and the need to fend off what is seen here as the high-handedness of Western nations".

"There are fishermen in Japan making their living by whaling and we can't simply end it", one of the officials said.

Japanese officials claim that populations of certain types of whale - such as the minke - have recovered sufficiently to allow the resumption of "sustainable" hunting.

Japan faced criticism earlier this year after reporting that its whaling fleet had killed 122 pregnant whales during its annual research hunt in the Southern Ocean last winter. All commercial whaling has been banned by the IWC since 1984, but a few countries, including Japan, have found loopholes.

Japan has hunted whales in the Southern Ocean since 1987 for what it calls "scientific research" purposes, but this has been criticized internationally as a cover for commercial purposes.

The country has not yet formalized the withdrawal, however, and a government official told The Guardian that the Kyodo report is incorrect. That effort failed in September when it lost a vote among the organization's 89 member countries.

Japan will inform the IWC of its decision by the end of the year, according to Kyodo news agency.

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In response to being voted down, the government delegation expressed the possibility that Japan could withdraw from the IWC, saying, "If the IWC does not permit any form of commercial whaling and there is no potential for two different stances or ideas to coexist, Japan cannot help but assess all possible options".

For a long time Japan has chased whales for what it calls "logical research" and to move the meat, a program broadly condemned by protectionists.

If approved, the withdrawal will be effective on June 30, 2019.

Japan maintains it has complied with the Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling since 1988 and says it only catches whales for scientific purposes. Iceland even left the IWC before returning with the stipulation that it could object to the ban and continue its hunt.

Rothwell, who is one of Australia's leading global law experts, said the significance of a Japanese departure from the IWC can not be underplayed, given Japan's previous strong commitment to multilateral institutions and worldwide law.

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