Published: Wed, December 26, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Japan says it will resume commercial whaling, leave global commission

Japan says it will resume commercial whaling, leave global commission

Japan has announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) next year, and will resume commercial hunting in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone from July.

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

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.

Tokyo argues that whaling is an important part of Japan's traditions, and Suga said the withdrawal would allow fishermen to "pass our country's rich whaling culture onto the next generation".

Some influential lawmakers' constituencies include whaling communities, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's election district is home to the whaling port of Shimonoseki.

The announcement had been widely expected and comes after Japan failed in a bid earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling.

The government plans to notify the IWC of its intention by January 1, a move expected to draw criticism not only in foreign countries but also in Japan.

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

Australia's IWC commissioner, Nick Gales, told the meeting that there was "little and diminishing demand" for commercial whaling industry, The Guardian reported.

Hiroshi Kameyama, mayor of Ishinomaki, said the government's IWC withdrawal decision was a "big surprise".

A whale breaches near a boat in Antarctica
Tracy HickmanA whale breaches near a boat in Antarctica

Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka released a statement supporting the government's decision, saying that "the use of cetaceans each country has had through the ages should be respected as long as their resources are not threatened".

The Japanese government has confirmed it will restart commercial whaling in July when it exits the IWC.

"Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice".

"We would like to wholeheartedly celebrate an end to Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean, but if Japan leaves the International Whaling Commission and continues killing whales in the North Pacific it will be operating completely outside the bounds of international law".

Suga said Japan will notify the IWC of its decision by December 31 and remains committed to global co-operation on proper management of marine living resources even after its IWC withdrawal.

Australia's government, often a vocal critic of Japan's whaling policies, said in a statement that it was "extremely disappointed" with Japan's decision to quit the commission.

Mr Suga said: "At the IWC general meeting in September this year it became evident once again that those supporting the sustainable use of whale stocks and those supporting protection can not co-exist, leading us to this conclusion". The International Court determined that there was little to Japan's claim that its whaling program was for science, as the country had never explored non-lethal alternatives or determined whether the number of whales it killed was appropriate to answer any scientific questions.

Last season, its scientific research expeditions caught almost 600 whales in the Antarctic and the northwest Pacific.

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

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