Japan to resume commercial whaling in July

Cristina Cross
December 26, 2018

Japan is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission and will resume commercial whaling next year, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, in a move expected to spark international criticism.

Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary, assured the public that commercial whaling "will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zones".

Commercial whaling was banned under a 1986 International Whaling Commission moratorium. It will not commercially hunt whales in the Southern Hemisphere, including the Antarctic Ocean.

"We have made a decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year", top government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

The Japanese government had tried to persuade the IWC to allow its commercial whaling, but the global organization rejected the bid in September.

"This is heartbreaking", said Greenpeace International soon after news broke that Japan would resume commercial whaling in July 2019.

Japan began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after the worldwide whaling moratorium began.

In past years, hundreds of whales were killed in what Japanese officials called "research" or "scientific" efforts.

He added that Japan is disappointed that the IWC - which he said is dominated by conservationists - focuses on the protection of whale stocks even though the commission has a treaty mandate for both whale conservation and the development of the whaling industry.

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Leaving the IWC means Japanese whalers will be able to resume hunting in Japanese coastal waters of minke and other whales now protected by the IWC.

Tokyo has long argued that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is a part of its culture.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years when the country was desperately poor.

The decision, some experts said, allows Japan to save the money it spends to support Antarctic whaling while taking a tough pro-whaling stance - a matter of national pride for some conservatives.

Influential lawmakers in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party whose constituencies include whaling communities have long lobbied for a resumption of commercial whaling.

By the way, today's announcement doesn't mean that Japan hasn't been hunting whales all this time.

Greenpeace Japan's executive director Sam Annesley said the decision was "out of step with the worldwide community".

Paul Watson, the founder of the anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd, also said in a statement that Japan would be declaring itself "a pirate whaling nation" by withdrawing from the IWC.

Much of the meat ends up in shops, even though most Japanese no longer eat it. Whale consumption accounted for 0.1 percent of all Japanese meat consumption, according to the Asahi newspaper.

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