Japan to restart commercial whale hunts

Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling in 2019

Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling in 2019

First, Japan will withdraw in June from the International Whaling Commission, or IWC, which it has tried - unsuccessfully - to convince to allow it to hunt whales commercially.

Japan's commercial whaling will be limited to its own territorial waters and its exclusive economic zone, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who made the announcement at a news conference after a cabinet decision on Tuesday.

"As a result of modern fleet technology, overfishing in both Japanese coastal waters and high seas areas has led to the depletion of many whale species", Greenpeace International said.

The IWC allowed some exemptions for subsistence hunting among native populations, and left a loophole for killing whales in the course of scientific research.

The decision by Tokyo to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which regulates whaling and has banned it, after 57 years as a member was criticised by allies and conservation groups.

"Japan argues that it has a long tradition of whaling, even though Japanese today eat very little whale meat", NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Tokyo.

The IWC imposed a commercial moratorium in the 1980s due to a dwindling whale population. Japan now hunts about 600 whales annually in the Antarctic and the Northern Pacific.

Japan will resume commercial whaling in July 2019 after a 30-year absence "in line with Japan's basic policy of promoting sustainable use of aquatic living resources based on scientific evidence", he said.

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.




"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", worldwide conservationist group Greenpeace said.

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.

Japan has claimed stocks have recovered enough to resume commercial hunting.

Australia, one of Japan's biggest critics on the issue, said it was "extremely disappointed".

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.

In the vote at that IWC meeting, 41 member countries opposed Japan's proposal to lift the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling, while 27 members supported it, and two abstained.

The plunge in whale populations in the 1970s ultimately resulted in an worldwide moratorium on the commercial hunting of whales. "This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for global rule".

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

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ordered it to halt its whaling programme in the Southern Ocean, also called the Antarctic Ocean, after determining that the hunting permits granted by authorities were not being used "for purposes of scientific research".

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