Japan to resume commercial whaling after IWC withdrawal

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The withdrawal will take effect at the end of June, with commercial whaling to resume in July "in line with Japan's basic policy of promoting sustainable use of aquatic living resources based on scientific evidence", Suga said.

Japan leaves the IWC after years attempting to persuade the worldwide body into allowing them to resume commercial whaling. "We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", he added.

Sir Geoffrey, a past Prime Minister, and New Zealand's representative on the commission for eight years until 2010, said Japan may go ahead with its often repeated threat to set up a separate organisation of countries that support commercial whaling.

Former Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, who now serves as adviser to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's fisheries committee, said he supported a decision to withdraw from the IWC, in an interview with Japan's NHK television.

At a September meeting of the IWC in Brazil, Japan attempted to establish a number of measures that would allow the commercial hunting of "abundant whale stocks/species"; as the BBC reports, Japan primarily kills minke whales, which are protected by the IWC but not now endangered. The program generated whale meat that was sold in specialty stores, as a legal byproduct of hunting that was labeled scientific in nature.

While likely to upset Japanese trade and security partners such as Australia and New Zealand, the decision on whaling might please some voters, who have been irked by foreign criticism of the country's hunting practices.

Tokyo has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the body, and has been regularly criticised for catching hundreds of whales a year for "scientific research" despite being a signatory to a moratorium on hunting the animals.

Japan's Fisheries Agency has defended its troubling interpretation of the global whaling moratorium by claiming that the objective of its so-called research was "to carry out a detailed calculation of the catch limit of minke whales and study the structure and dynamics of the ecological system in the Antarctic Ocean".

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"By leaving the IWC, Japan is rejecting multilateralism and setting a very bad precedent for conservation, which will likely have very serious negative consequences for the world's whales", she said.

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

Leaving the IWC means Japanese whalers will be able to resume hunting in Japanese coastal waters of minke and other whales now protected by the IWC.

The manner in which the government has chose to restart commercial whale hunts also raises some questions. In total, nearly 2,000 whales have been killed in the Antarctic since 2009 under a special permit granted by the IWC for research purposes.

And with an aging and shrinking population, the question is whether any whaling industry would even be commercially sustainable. Japanese officials say continuing to attend IWC meetings fulfills this obligation. A 2013 survey found that whale consumption in Japan was at just one percent of its peak in the 1960s, and stockpiles of unsold whale meat had reached 5,000 tons. "What's most important is to have a diverse and stable food supply", he said.

In recent years, Japan has had an annual quota in the Antarctic of 333 minke whales, which in the 2017-18 hunting season included 122 pregnant females.

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan should halt its Antarctic whaling.

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