Japan will resume commercial whaling, but not in Antarctic

Audrey Hill
December 27, 2018

"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", Suga said.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the commercial hunts would be limited to Japan's territorial waters.

But Japan will not be able to continue the so-called scientific research hunts in the Antarctic that it has been exceptionally allowed as an IWC member under the Antarctic Treaty. Since 1987, however, it has hunted whales for what it calls research purposes, a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling.

Suga said Japan has lost patience with the IWC, citing a lapsed 1990 deadline to modify its whaling moratorium.

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

Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement: "The declaration today is out of step with the worldwide community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures".

Mr Suga said Japan will notify the IWC of its decision by 31 December and remains committed to worldwide cooperation on proper management of marine living resources even after its IWC withdrawal.

Two countries including Canada and Iceland have withdrawn from the global bod, with the latter re-joining in 2003 after leaving in 1992.

The IWC forced a commercial moratorium in the 1980s due to a dwindling whale population.

By leaving the IWC, Japan steps back from the body's founding document, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which was signed in 1946.

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It was not yet clear how many whales would be caught each year once Japan resumes commercial whaling, officials said.

Moronuki said Japan is starting with a modest plan because it has to figure out if or how commercial whaling can be a viable industry. Allegations have been made that provision of Japanese aid has been tied to support provided at the IWC.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries but has reduced its catch following worldwide protests and declining demand for whale meat at home.

Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were nearly driven to extinction, the BBC reported.

Japan has caught between about 200 and 1,200 whales each year, saying it is investigating stock levels to see whether the whales are endangered or not.

"We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", he added.

It has been accused of conducting commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research and has been estimated to kill 450 whales annually.

While the Japanese political class has sought the resumption of commercial whaling activities, campaigners say eating whale is becoming "less and less popular".

Some towns in Japan such as Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, have a whaling tradition but have become the focus of intense worldwide pressure by conservation groups.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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