More nations could follow Japan's lead on whaling - Sir Geoffrey Palmer

Ignacio Smith
December 28, 2018

The decision by Tokyo to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which regulates whaling and has banned it, after 57 years as a member was criticised by allies and conservation groups.

Japan will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in order to resume commercial whaling in July 2019, the Japanese government said Wednesday.

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.

Japan will be unable to continue research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean once it formally pulls out of the IWC.

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.

At a September meeting of the IWC in Brazil, Japan attempted to establish a number of measures that would allow the commercial hunting of "abundant whale stocks/species"; as the BBC reports, Japan primarily kills minke whales, which are protected by the IWC but not now endangered.

Criticising the decision, Executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said, "It's clear that the government is trying to hide in this announcement at the end of year, away from the spotlight of global media but the world sees this for what it is".

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Greenpeace Japan's executive director Sam Annesley said the decision was "out of step with the worldwide community".

'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 group said in a Boxing Day media statement.

Japan will lose the right to conduct scientific research under the IWC without gaining any guaranteed rights to continue whaling, he said, potentially leaving itself open to legal challenge.

"It's clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of year away from the spotlight of worldwide media, but the world sees this for what it is", Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement. "No more pretense of research whaling".

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.

"In its long history, Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes", Suga said in a statement.

But the hunt will be geographically limited, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference, Reuters reported.

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"At the IWC general meeting in September this year, it became evident once again that those supporting the sustainable use of whale stocks and those supporting protection can not co-exist, leading us to this conclusion". This will be the a year ago of Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean, ' he said.

Yoshie Nakatani, an official at the foreign ministry's fisheries division, said Japan would still attend IWC meetings. Many younger people don't see whales as food.

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan should halt its Antarctic whaling.

It's a decision that helps prop up an industry that still has cultural significance in Japan, despite plummeting demand for whale meat.

Suga said Japan will notify the IWC of its decision by December 31 and remains committed to worldwide cooperation on proper management of marine living resources even after its IWC withdrawal.

Whale meat has always been a staple in Japan's culinary culture, dating back to the Jomon Period from 10,000 to 200 B.C. At its peak in 1962, more than 230,000 tons of whale meat was consumed each year, the Japan Times reported.

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