Japan says it will resume commercial whaling

Japan announces IWC withdrawal to resume commercial whaling

Japan has made a decision to pull out of the International Whaling Commission.

Japan announced on Wednesday that it will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume commercial whaling next summer - a move that drew immediate condemnation from governments and environmental groups.

After years of unsuccessful lobbying for its scientific and commercial whaling programs, Japan has finally pulled the plug on its membership of the IWC.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the hunts will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and its 200-mile exclusive economic zone along the country's coasts and that Japan will stop its annual whaling expeditions to the Antarctic and northwest Pacific oceans.

There are strong anti-whaling lobbies and non-government groups in both countries, given their proximity to the Southern Ocean, where Japan has been carrying out its "scientific" cull.

Japan's Fisheries Agency has defended its troubling interpretation of the worldwide whaling moratorium by claiming that the goal 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".

Japan, which says most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture, has long campaigned without success for the IWC to allow commercial whaling.

"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", said Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan, in a statement.

The Japanese government, under pressure from the local fishing industry, has decided it could not restart commercial whaling while being a member of the worldwide body responsible for the conservation of whales.

"In its long history, Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes", the statement said. "No more pretense of research whaling".

Japan said it will continue to attend meetings of the IWC to help "rectify the dysfunction" of the organization led by the United States.

"With the Japanese whaling fleet hunting whales in our Southern Ocean, the Australian Government must demand they bring their fleet home immediately and take legal action if they don't".

Japan has since switched to what it calls research whaling, and says stocks have recovered enough that commercial hunts should resume. Opponents have criticised the program as a cover for commercial whaling because the whale meat was sold for food.

"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".

Japanese Fisheries Agency official and long-time IWC negotiator Hideki Moronuki said Japan would use the IWC's method to carefully determine a catch quota on the basis of science, but declined to give an estimate.

Japan has cut back on its catch as Japanese consume less whale meat. It's a claim that has always been understood to be bullshit, and whale meat is widely available across Japan.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, but has reduced its catch following worldwide protests and declining demand for whale meat at home.

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.

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