Japan leaving International Whaling Commission

Japan leaving International Whaling Commission

Kenneth Drake
December 27, 2018

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan's commercial whaling will be limited to its territorial and economic waters.

Japan has also continued to hunt smaller species of whales that are not covered by the IWC in its coastal waters.

It has continued to carry out whaling activities with research vessels, particularly in Antarctica.

Japan switched to what it calls research whaling and says stocks have recovered enough to resume commercial hunt.

The danger in this move is that Japan will be joined by the countries that have supported its past efforts, thus fracturing the organization that is primarily responsible for the survival of many whale species into the 21st century.

Activist groups slammed Tokyo's decision, with Humane Society International saying Japan would become "a pirate whaling nation killing these ocean leviathans completely outside the bounds of international law".

The IWC, established in 1946 to conserve and manage the world's whale and cetacean population, introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

Fisheries officials have said Japan annually consumes thousands of tons of whale meat from the research hunts, mainly by older Japanese seeking a nostalgic meal. The government is considering allowing commercial whaling in nearby seas and within its exclusive economic zone, other sources have said.

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Amy Laurenson, the acting New Zealand Whaling Commissioner said under the global law of an exclusive economic zone, Japan could hunt for whales in an area that extends up to 200 nautical miles of the country.

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".

The plunge in whale populations in the 1970s ultimately resulted in an global moratorium on the commercial hunting of whales. The government said it would also stop hunting the ocean mammals in the Antarctic, in the latest chapter of the controversial practice, which has received worldwide criticism.

Despite the fact that Japan officially refrained from whaling for about 30 years, whale meat from time to time could be found in the country's supermarkets and restaurants.

"But if we don't explain internationally that whales are increasing. people won't understand", she added.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters welcomed Japan's decision to halt Antarctic whaling but said he was disappointed with the decision to resume any commercial whaling.

"With this move the Japanese government is officially turning its back on worldwide cooperation around conservation measures, and one of the greatest conservation agreements ever made - the ban on commercial whaling", said Astrid Fuchs of Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC). In recent years, Japan was often accused of using the guise of "scientific research" as an ethical and legal cover for its hunting trips to Antarctica. Critics say they doubt commercial whaling can be a sustainable industry because younger Japanese may not view the animals as food.