Japan to resume commercial whaling, but not in Antarctic

GettyImages-491927334

GettyImages-491927334

The announcement had been widely expected and comes after Japan failed in a bid earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling.

"We have chose to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year", top government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

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.

Australia and New Zealand welcomed the decision to abandon the Antarctic whale hunt, but expressed disappointment that Japan would engage in any killing of the ocean mammals.

The research programme was criticised as being a cover for commercial hunting.

Japanese media said that Japan could no longer take advantage of the IWC exemption for scientific whaling if it withdrew from the group because the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas requires its signatories, including Japan, to work through "the appropriate worldwide organisations" for marine mammal conservation.

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.

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

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.

Suga said the IWC has been dominated by conservationists and Japan was disappointed over its efforts to manage whale stocks even though the IWC has a treaty mandate for both whale conservation and development of the whaling industry.

Japan announces IWC withdrawal to resume commercial whaling
Japan's Whaling Commission withdrawal is a 'big deal' - NZ govt

The Japanese government has confirmed it will restart commercial whaling in July when it exits the IWC.

The government plans to notify the IWC of its intention by January 1, a move expected to draw criticism not only in foreign countries but also in Japan.

Activist groups slammed the decision, with Greenpeace calling it a "sneaky" announcement.

Greenpeace Japan's executive director Sam Annesley said the decision was "out of step with the worldwide community".

"We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling in order to advance the protection of the ocean's ecosystems".

Commercial whaling has been banned by IWC since 1986, but Japan has long lobbied for the restrictions to be eased.

Japan switched to what it calls research whaling after the IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in the 1980s, and now says stocks have recovered enough to resume commercial hunts.

It makes no secret however of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables.

However, Japan's conservative government argues that there is a need to pass whaling culture on to the next generation.

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