Japan leaving International Whaling Commission

Japan leaving International Whaling Commission

Mr Suga said the IWC has been overlooked by conservationists and Japan was frustrated over its attempts to manage whale capitals even though the IWC has a treaty mandate for both whale conservation and development of the whaling industry.

The nation, which has long argued it should be allowed to hunt whales as their meat has cultural significance, says it will not return to whaling in Antarctica though, and will stick to its territorial and economic waters.

"The whaling will be conducted in accordance with worldwide law and within the catch limits calculated in accordance with the method adopted by the IWC to avoid negative impact on cetacean resources", Suga said.

IWC introduced a suspension on all commercial whaling in 1982 due to a dwindling whale population with Japan joining six years later - switching their focus to "research whaling".

Many members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party do support whaling, and he himself comes from a constituency where whale hunting remains popular.

Mr Suga said: "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".

Some towns in Japan such as Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, have a whaling tradition but have become the focus of intense global pressure by conservation groups.

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

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said it was now trying to work out the implications of the decision.

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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. A proposal to allow the commercial hunt of minke whales and other species which Japan believes are "relatively abundant" was recently rejected.

"Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice. We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling", he said.

Australia's government, often a vocal critic of Japan's whaling policies, said in a statement that it was "extremely disappointed" with Japan's decision to quit the commission.

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

Japan suspended its hunt for one season to re-tool its whaling program with measures such as cutting the number of whales and species targeted, but resumed hunting in the 2015-2016 season, capping its Antarctic catch with a quota of 333 whales annually.

In past years, hundreds of whales were killed in what Japanese officials called "research" or "scientific" efforts. Its aged whaling mothership is in need of a costly replacement or refit.

Much of the meat ends up on store shelves, 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.

"We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", he added. "There are still whale meat restaurants and I think some people will keep eating a small quantity", said Yoichiro Sato, a professor at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University.