Japan restarting commercial whaling, ignoring global moratorium

Japan to resume commercial whaling next July

Japan is to resume commercial whaling in July after withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission.

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

While this is a benefit for the Antarctic, it may simply be because the nation is no longer able to hunt on the high seas, where they were claiming to be conducting "scientific whaling" while still a member of the IWC.

It means Japan will be able to freely hunt species now protected by the IWC, like minke whales.

In September 2018, the majority of member nations at the IWC annual symposium in Brazil approved a non-binding resolution stating that commercial whaling was no longer a valid economic activity, or needed for scientific research.

Whale hunting has become a rare thorny subject in Japan's otherwise largely amiable foreign policy, with worldwide opposition only serving to make conservatives dig in deeper in support of the tradition.

Ahead of the announcement, activist groups warned Japan against the withdrawal. 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. That works out to 35 grams per person per year, according to a whale meat shop owner Koichi Matsumoto.

Japan exploited that loophole, sending large vessels to the Antarctic that killed hundreds of whales annually, with their meat ending up for sale in Japan.

The announcement had been widely expected and comes after Japan failed in a bid earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling.

She added: "This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for global rule".

"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", the NGO said, "but the world sees this for what it is".

"Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice".

"This is a grave mistake which is out of step with the rest of the world", said Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan.

The whale hunts will abide by global laws and a quota calculated under a method adopted by the IWC. Whaling "will be conducted in accordance with worldwide law", said Suga.

The IWC was established in 1948 under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling to conserve whales and realise the "orderly development of the whaling industry".

The ever-dwindling demand means an uncertain outlook for Japan's whaling.

"As there may be global 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.

It means that whales can be taken for scientific studies and the meat can later be sold for consumption.

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