Japan announces IWC withdrawal, will resume commercial whaling

Japan announces IWC withdrawal, will resume commercial whaling

"We have chose to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year", top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga says the withdrawal will come into effect at the end of June 2019, and that commercial whaling will be confined to Japanese waters and its economic zone, in accordance with worldwide law.

Japan killed at least 488 whales off its coast, in the Antarctic and the Northwest Pacific during the annual hunt that ended in 2017, according to IWC.

The Humane Society also said it's concerned that Japan's withdrawal could lead other IWC members to follow suit - possibly reviving the whaling industry and posing renewed threats to humpback, fin and other protected whales.

Officials in Japan, an IWC member since 1951, say eating whales is part of the country's culture.

Activist groups slammed the decision, with Greenpeace calling it a "sneaky" announcement.

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.

"We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling in order to advance the protection of the ocean's ecosystems".

Japan has hunted whales for centuries but has subdued its catch following worldwide protests and diminishing demand for whale meat at home. The government is considering allowing commercial whaling in nearby seas and within its exclusive economic zone, other sources have said.

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The government plans to notify the IWC of its intention by January 1, a move expected to draw criticism not only in foreign countries but also in Japan.

"It's clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of year, away from the spotlight of global media", said Sam Annesley, the Executive Director at Greenpeace Japan. A United Kingdom news report explains: It's been doing so for three decades under an exception to the IWC's ban on whale hunting.

"Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called "scientific" whaling", its environment minister, Melissa Price, and foreign minister, Marise Payne, said in a statement.

A number of coastal communities in Japan have hunted whales for centuries, but consumption in the country surged only after World War II.

"This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for worldwide rule", she added.

"I think it's a big deal in terms of the intention to resume commercial whaling", she said.

The Fisheries Agency said Japan plans to catch three kinds of whale that are believed to have sufficient stocks - minke, sei and Bryde's.

The move to resume commercial whaling drew criticism from conservation groups and governments.

Tokyo has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the body, and has been regularly criticised for catching hundreds of whales a year for "scientific research" despite being a signatory to a moratorium on hunting the animals.

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