Published: Thu, December 27, 2018
Sci-tech | By Javier West

Japan to withdraw from International Whaling Commission

Japan to withdraw from International Whaling Commission

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

But Japan will not be able to continue the so-called scientific research hunts in the Antarctic that it has been exceptionally allowed as an IWC member under the Antarctic Treaty.

"The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling", he added.

Japan will officially inform the IWC of its decision by year's end and the withdrawal will come into effect by June 30.

The decision to withdraw from the IWC followed its latest rejection of Japan's bid to resume commercial whaling at a September meeting, which Suga said showed it was impossible to bridge the gap between whaling advocates and anti-whaling members.

Japan began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after the global whaling moratorium began.

Whale meat was vital in post-WWII Japan but its consumption dropped significantly as the country became wealthier during the following decades. For whales, the news is good and bad: the move with shift Japan's hunting to its territorial waters, and away from the healthier populations in the Antarctic.

Some lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, stress the need to preserve local whaling traditions, but it is unclear whether demand will increase even if commercial whaling resumes.

"Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice".

Much of the meat ends up in shops, even though most Japanese no longer eat it. Whale consumption accounted for 0.1 percent of all Japanese meat consumption, according to the Asahi newspaper.

Hideki Moronuki, a senior official at the Fishery Agency, told reporters: "A withdrawal is not the best option, but it is a better option in order to achieve Japan's major objective of commercial whaling".

The Australian government, often a vocal critic of Japan's whaling policies, said it was "extremely disappointed" with Japan's decision to quit the commission.

The environmental group Greenpeace condemned Wednesday's announcement and disputed Japan's view that whale stocks have recovered, and noted that ocean life is being threatened by pollution as well as overfishing.

Japan is the biggest financial contributor to the IWC, which may now have to find ways to replace lost funding.

"As there may be worldwide criticism, I expect (the government) to try to gain the understanding of anti-whaling nations", he said, adding he hopes whaling for commercial use will be carried out under appropriate resource management in a similar manner to when the country's so-called research whaling was conducted. The International Court determined that there was little to Japan's claim that its whaling program was for science, as the country had never explored non-lethal alternatives or determined whether the number of whales it killed was appropriate to answer any scientific questions.

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