Japan to resume commercial whale hunting

Japanese whaling in Northern Ross Sea Antarctica. Harpooned minke whale 1989

The Sankei newspaper said the decision was made at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday after the government decided it would be hard to resume commercial whaling while a member of the worldwide body.

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 resume commercial whaling in July 2019 after a 30-year absence "in line with Japan's basic policy of promoting sustainable use of aquatic living resources based on scientific evidence", he said.

Reports of the impending decision - an unusual step for Japan, which stresses multilateralism in its diplomacy - had sparked criticism from global conservationist groups.

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.

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. Third, it will "cease the take of whales in the Antarctic Ocean/the Southern Hemisphere".

The IWC forced a commercial moratorium in the 1980s due to a dwindling whale population. It began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an worldwide whaling moratorium began.

Australia and New Zealand welcomed the decision to abandon the Antarctic whale hunt, but expressed disappointment that Japan would engage in any killing of the ocean mammals.

"As a result of modern fleet technology, overfishing in both Japanese coastal waters and high seas areas has led to the depletion of many whale species", Greenpeace International said.

"This is devastating news for the whales and we can only hope that conservation-minded countries like the United Kingdom will take appropriate measures to respond to Japan's decision, including the threat of sanctions".

Some lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, stress the need to preserve local whaling traditions, but it is unclear whether demand will increase even if commercial whaling resumes.

"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", Greenpeace Japan said in a statement.

"There have been no concessions from countries who only place importance on the protection of whales", Suga said.

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.

Much of the meat ends up in shops, even though most Japanese no longer eat it. Whale consumption accounted for 0.1 percent of all Japanese meat consumption, according to the Asahi newspaper.

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