Japan to resume commercial whaling for the first time in 30 years

Pat Wise
December 27, 2018

Japan is withdrawing from an worldwide group that bans commercial whaling, saying it will resume commercial hunts for the first time in 30 years next July.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga says the withdrawal will come into effect at the end of June 2019, and that commercial whaling will be confined to Japanese waters and its economic zone, in accordance with global law.

Criticizing Japan's plan, Humane Society International said that while it welcomes the end of whaling in the Antarctic and other areas in southern waters, the group believes "Japan's decision to leave the rules-based order of the IWC will place its North Pacific whaling program completely outside the bounds of international law".

For a number of years, Japan has been killing whales for what they claim was for research, but now it will hunt openly in its own waters.

By the way, today's announcement doesn't mean that Japan hasn't been hunting whales all this time.

The IWC imposed the moratorium on commercial whaling three decades ago due to a dwindling whale population.

Global conservation group Sea Shepherd has long protested against Japan's whaling programme, often trailing its whaling ships in Antarctic waters.

The nation, which has long argued it should be allowed to hunt whales as their meat has cultural significance, says it will not return to whaling in Antarctica though, and will stick to its territorial and economic waters.

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Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement: "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". A United Kingdom news report explains: It's been doing so for three decades under an exception to the IWC's ban on whale hunting.

"Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called "scientific" whaling", Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Environment Minister Melissa Price said in a statement.

The IWC in September again rejected Tokyo's request to resume commercial whaling.

In the 1950s, the practice reached its peak amid growing demand for whale meat as a key source of protein in the years following World War II, when the nation was poor and recovering from the devastation. This includes 372 minke whales, 26 Bryde's whales, and 90 sei whales.

"This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for worldwide rule", she added.

Last season, its scientific research expeditions caught almost 600 whales in the Antarctic and the northwest Pacific.

Whale hunting has become a rare thorny subject in Japan's otherwise largely amiable foreign policy, with global opposition only serving to make conservatives dig in deeper in support of the tradition.

A 73-year-old woman was hopeful that the resumption of commercial whaling would lead to the revival of Taiji, but said she fears "violent anti-whaling activities could increase" in the future.

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