Japan says it will leave International Whaling Commission to resume commercial whaling

Japan says it will leave International Whaling Commission to resume commercial whaling

Japan says it will leave International Whaling Commission to resume commercial whaling

Japan said Wednesday it is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission and will resume commercial whaling next year, in a move expected to spark international criticism.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the commercial hunts would be limited to Japan's territorial waters.

The IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986, but some countries including Japan, Norway and Iceland have exploited a provision in the 1946 Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that allows whales to be killed for scientific purposes. "We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", Suga added.

"We have made a decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year", top government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga told reporters. "The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling".

Japan has long defied such protests to conduct what it calls scientific research whaling, having repeatedly said its ultimate goal was to whale commercially again.

Mr Suga said Japan will notify the IWC of its decision by 31 December and remains committed to global cooperation on proper management of marine living resources even after its IWC withdrawal. Japanese ambassador Masaki Saito was visiting earlier this year.

Japan will recommence industrial whaling in July 2019 after a 30-year absence "in line with Japan's basic policy of promoting sustainable use of aquatic living resources based on scientific evidence", he said.

The whale hunts will abide by global laws and a quota calculated under a method adopted by the IWC.

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But consumption has declined significantly in recent decades, with much of the population saying they rarely or never eat whale meat.

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.

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

Influential lawmakers in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party have long lobbied for a resumption of commercial whaling, and the PM's own district includes a whaling port in Western Japan.

Ahead of the announcement, activist groups warned Japan against the withdrawal.

"The declaration today is out of step with the worldwide community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures", global conservationist group Greenpeace said.

"This is devastating news for the whales and we can only hope that conservation-minded countries like the United Kingdom will take appropriate measures to respond to Japan's decision, including the threat of sanctions".

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

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