Japan Embraces Commercial Whaling, Pulls Out Of Global Alliance That Banned Practice

by Fredrick Graves December 27, 2018, 0:56
Japan Embraces Commercial Whaling, Pulls Out Of Global Alliance That Banned Practice

Japan announced Wednesday it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume hunting the animals for commercial use but said it will no longer go to the Antarctic for its much-criticized annual killings of hundreds of whales.

Suga said Japan would officially inform the IWC of its decision by the end of the year, which will mean the withdrawal comes into effect by June 30.

Now, Japan says the whale population has recovered enough to resume commercial hunting, and the IWC has become more like an opponent of whaling than an organization aiming for sustainability.

It reverses decades of policy as the commission issued an worldwide suspension of commercial hunting in 1986 but Japan has since been whale hunting in the name of scientific research, with much of the meat also ending up on store shelves.

The Humane Society also said it's concerned that Japan's withdrawal could lead other IWC members to follow suit - possibly reviving the whaling industry and posing renewed threats to humpback, fin and other protected whales.

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

"We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling", he said. "We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters. (The Australian government has otherwise condemned the move.) Instead, the whaling fleet will focus on Japanese territorial waters and economic zones.

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.

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"The declaration today is out of step with the global community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures".

Commercial whaling was banned under a 1986 International Whaling Commission moratorium.

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

A number of coastal communities in Japan have hunted whales for centuries, but consumption in the country surged only after World War II.

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.

Japan slashed its annual quota in the Antarctic by about one third after the International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the country's research whaling program wasn't as scientific as it had argued. This includes 372 minke whales, 26 Bryde's whales, and 90 sei whales.

Whale hunting has become a rare thorny subject in Japan's otherwise largely amiable foreign policy, with global opposition only serving to make conservatives dig in deeper in support of the tradition.

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

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