Published: Fri, December 28, 2018
Research | By Dana Schwartz

Japan to resume commercial whaling after pulling out of IWC

Japan to resume commercial whaling after pulling out of IWC

Yoshihide Suga, the Japan government's chief spokesman, said that the country's fleet will resume commercial operations in July next 2019.

With Japan's withdrawal from the IWC, there is no mistaking the country's determination to hunt whales on a commercial basis.

Japan suspended its hunt for one season to re-tool its whaling program with measures such as cutting the number of whales and species targeted, but resumed hunting in the 2015-2016 season, capping its Antarctic catch with a quota of 333 whales annually.

The moratorium on commercial whaling in force since 1986. "Their decision to withdraw is regrettable and Australia urges Japan to return to the Convention and Commission as a matter of priority".

While the announcement drew immediate criticism from anti-whaling nations and groups, .

"So now Japan has turned their back on global efforts to manage whaling and conserve whales in order to kill whales outside worldwide control".

The IWC, which imposed a commercial moratorium in the 1980s due to a dwindling whale population, rejected Tokyo's request to resume commercial whaling in September. Opponents have criticised the program as a cover for commercial whaling because the whale meat was sold for food.

However, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters joined Australia in welcoming Japan's withdrawal from the southern ocean.

The scheme to pose as researchers will now be dropped and that means there can be absolutely no justification for hunting whales in an internationally established whale sanctuary.

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This and the verdict of the International Court of Justice that exposed Japanese research as fraudulent, coupled with worldwide condemnation of their Southern Ocean activities has in the opinion of Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd led to this decision to declare they will openly undertake commercial whaling activities.

Wildlife groups say Japan's "research" whaling was a thinly veiled attempt to keep the industry alive, making sure boats, skills and a market for whale meat are maintained.

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

AMCS CEO Darren Kindleysides said, "If Japan leaving the IWC spells the end of their Southern Ocean whaling that would be a win for our whales". But it will allow commercial whaling starting in July, despite plummeting demand for whale meat.

In September, Japan asked permission to hunt Antarctic minke whales, common minke whales, Bryde's whales and Sei whales, with officials citing IWC population estimates in the tens of thousands for three of the species and of more than 500,000 for the Antarctic minke.

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.

During this period over 6,000 whales were saved from the harpoons of Japanese commercial whalers posing as research whalers by Sea Shepherd interventions.

"The IWC has become the driving force for global whale conservation efforts in the 21st century. However, it would be a bittersweet victory if it comes with unchecked commercial whaling by Japan in their own waters, and their leaving could damage the future of the IWC itself". Japanese officials say continuing to attend IWC meetings fulfills this obligation.

Japan also explained that even after the withdrawal, .it will continue to contribute to preserving maritime resources by conducting whaling within the catch limit of the IWC.

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