Published: Thu, December 27, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Japan says it will resume commercial whaling, leave worldwide commission

Japan says it will resume commercial whaling, leave worldwide commission

The decision to restart commercial whaling has sparked global criticism.

Japan says it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial hunts but says it will no longer go to the Antarctic to hunt.

The IWC, which imposed a commercial moratorium in the 1980s due to a dwindling whale population, rejected Tokyo's request to resume commercial whaling in September.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea binds countries to co-operate on the conservation of whales "through the appropriate worldwide organisations for their conservation, management and study".

"Regrettably, we have reached a decision that it is impossible in the IWC to seek the coexistence of states with different views", Mr Suga said.

Suga said the commercial hunts would be limited to Japan's territorial waters and its 200-mile (323-kilometer) exclusive economic zone along its coasts.

A 73-year-old woman was hopeful that the resumption of commercial whaling would lead to the revival of Taiji, but said she fears "violent anti-whaling activities could increase" in the future.

Among members of the IWC, 41 are for whaling and 48 are against, according to the Fisheries Agency, but the organisation has been long-associated with lobbying and vote-buying allegations on both the pro- and anti-whaling sides. Since 1987, however, it has hunted whales for research purposes, a practice criticised internationally as a cover for commercial whaling.

However, activist groups slammed the decision, with Greenpeace calling it a "sneaky" announcement.

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Sam Annesley, head of Greenpeace Japan, said the Japanese announcement was, in his words, "out of step with the worldwide community".

A statement by Japan's government said the IWC was not committed enough to one of its goals, of supporting sustainable commercial whaling.

Criticizing Japan's plan, Humane Society International said that while it welcomes the end of whaling in the Antarctic and other areas in southern waters, the group believes "Japan's decision to leave the rules-based order of the IWC will place its North Pacific whaling program completely outside the bounds of international law". The United Kingdom's environmental secretary Michael Gove was "extremely disappointed" in the decision and said the "strongly opposed to commercial whaling".

Japan is also stresing that eating whale is part of its culture. Japanese officials say continuing to attend IWC meetings fulfills this obligation.

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.

The Japanese government has confirmed it will restart commercial whaling in July when it exits the IWC. But, he said, environmentalists have the most influence.

Japan's whaling of small species in its coastal waters will not be affected because it is not subject to IWC regulations.

For example, Japan faced criticism by conservationists in May after whalers from that country killed 333 minke whales - 122 of which were pregnant - in the Antarctic Ocean during a 12-week expedition under IWC guidelines.

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