Japan announces IWC withdrawal, will resume commercial whaling

Japan announces IWC withdrawal, will resume commercial whaling

Japan says it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial hunts but says it will no longer go to the Antarctic to hunt.

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ordered it to halt its whaling programme in the Southern Ocean, also called the Antarctic Ocean, after determining that the hunting permits granted by authorities were not being used "for purposes of scientific research".

The Japanese government, which began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after the global whaling moratorium was introduced, has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered - six of the world's 13 "great whale species" are classified as endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The research program was criticized as a cover for commercial hunting as the meat is sold on the market at home.

Suga said Japan would officially inform the IWC of its decision by the end of the year, which will mean the withdrawal comes into effect by June 30.

Amy Laurenson, the acting New Zealand Whaling Commissioner said under the worldwide law of an exclusive economic zone, Japan could hunt for whales in an area that extends up to 200 nautical miles of the country.

Japan has announced it will no longer be hunting whales in the Southern Ocean, instead, it will resume commercial whaling within its own waters.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years when the country was desperately poor.

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Japan's vice-minister for fisheries Masaaki Taniai said after that vote that Tokyo would be "pressed to undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position as a member of the IWC".

The withdrawal from the IWC may be a face-saving step to stop Japan's ambitious Antarctic hunts and scale down the scope of whaling to around the Japanese coasts.

Greenpeace Japan executive director Sam Annesley said the decision was a backwards step for the country. The move sets the stage for Japan to resume commercial whaling activities next year.

The IWC imposed a commercial moratorium in 1986 due to a dwindling whale population, which Japan was a part of.

It makes no secret of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables, and argues that stocks of certain whales are now sufficient to allow commercial hunts to resume.

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.

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