Japan 'mulling IWC withdrawal' to resume commercial whaling

Crew members measure a minke whale caught during research whaling

Crew members measure a minke whale caught during research whaling

In 1982, the IWC introduced a moratorium on all commercial whaling. "We hope that Japan will reverse its decision and take its place beside the nations trying to undo the damage human activities have done to whale populations".

Japan's decision this week was driven by frustrations with what officials see as an anti-whaling agenda at the IWC, according to The Associated Press.

Such a move would spark global criticism against Japan over whale conservation and deepen the divide between anti- and pro-whaling countries.

"If commercial whaling based on science is completely denied, and if there's no possibility for the different positions and views to coexist with mutual understanding and respect, then Japan will be pressed to undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position", the minister said.

Some ruling coalition lawmakers have been saying that Japan would not be able to resume commercial whaling as long as it remains a member of the IWC.

But Masayuki Komatsu, a former fisheries official who represented Japan at IWC, questioned if Japan gains anything from withdrawing. But these attempts were blocked by anti-whaling nations.

However, Japanese whalers are unlikely to catch the mammals in the Antarctic Ocean even after it quits the IWC as the government is considering allowing commercial whalers to operate only in seas near Japan and in its exclusive economic zone, the sources added.

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Japan needs to notify the IWC by January 1 if it wished to leave.

1948 - The International Whaling Commission is established under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Japan previously threatened to leave the IWC in 2007, but changed its mind after talking with representatives from the United States and other member nations, according to Kyodo News.

Japan faced criticism earlier this year after reporting that its whaling fleet had killed 122 pregnant whales during its annual research hunt in the Southern Ocean last winter.

It is extremely rare for Japan to withdraw from an worldwide organisation and the withdrawal could spark criticism from anti-whaling countries. Of the 333 minke whales caught during the four-month expedition, 181 were female - including 53 juveniles.

"If we give up to achieve sustainable use of whales, Japan would encounter serious difficulties for food security", he said.

Japan would join Iceland and Norway in openly defying the ban on commercial whale hunting.

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