Environmentalists Are Furious After Japan Ditches International Ban On Commercial Whaling

Japan International Whaling Commission

Japan International Whaling Commission

"The Commission is the pre-eminent global body responsible for the conservation and management of whales and leads worldwide efforts to tackle the growing range of threats to whales globally, including by-catch, ship strikes, entanglement, noise and whaling".

Japan has made a decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and will resume commercial whaling July next year.

It says commercial whaling will be limited to its territorial and economic waters and it would no longer hunt in the Antarctic. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made it official in his news conference on the morning of December 26.

Instead, a majority of IWC members voted to have the commission turn its back on commercial whaling for good.

Japan is facing worldwide criticism from environmentalists and other countries after announcing it would lift a moratorium on commercial whaling in July.

Influential lawmakers in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party have long lobbied for a resumption of commercial whaling, and the PM's own district includes a whaling port in Western Japan.

For years, Japan has said its continued whaling was for scientific research only.

Japanese whaling towns welcomed Wednesday the government's decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission, but some local residents voiced concern that it could lead to an escalation in protests.

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

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

"The whaling will be conducted in accordance with global law and within the catch limits calculated in accordance with the method adopted by the IWC to avoid negative impact on cetacean resources", he said.

Japan announced it would resume commercial whaling in July, drawing criticism from Australia and New Zealand, where anti-whaling sentiment is strong. Japan's departure will deal a stiff financial blow to the IWC as that nation is the second largest contributor to the worldwide whaling regulator, after the United States. Japan switched to what it calls research whaling and says stocks have recovered enough to resume commercial hunts.

Today, whale stocks are carefully monitored, and while many species are still endangered, others - like the minke whale that Japan primarily hunts - are not.

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

The ruling undermined the legality of Japan's high-seas whaling operations and potentially removed an important source of funding through the commercial sale of sei meat, experts said.

Japan is the biggest financial contributor to the IWC, which may now have to find ways to replace lost funding. "Rather, I'd stay with the IWC convention and make the best use of its obligations and duties".

"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".

Japan's government hopes to promote the consumption of whale meat, especially among young people, an official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told reporters.

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