Japan will resume commercial whaling in 2019

Pablo Tucker
December 26, 2018

Japan confirmed on Wednesday that it will quit the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling next year.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the commercial hunts would be limited to Japan's territorial waters.

Japan suspended its hunt for one season to re-tool its whaling programme 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.

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 global body.

"The Government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling", Annesley said.

Japan switched to what it calls research whaling and says stocks have recovered enough to resume commercial hunt.

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan should halt its Antarctic whaling. It began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an worldwide whaling moratorium began.

Japan has said the IWC has become more like an opponent of whaling than an organization aiming for sustainability.

Suga said the IWC has been dominated by conservationists and Japan was disappointed over its efforts to manage whale stocks even though the IWC has a treaty mandate for both whale conservation and development of the whaling industry.

"But if we don't explain internationally that whales are increasing. people won't understand", she added.

"The next great thing about it is that if they leave the IWC, that means the Atlantic whale sanctuary will then go ahead because they've been voting against that for years".

Despite the fact that Japan officially refrained from whaling for about 30 years, whale meat from time to time could be found in the country's supermarkets and restaurants.

Tokyo has long argued that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is a part of its culture.

Some influential lawmakers' constituencies include whaling communities, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's election district is home to the whaling port of Shimonoseki.

According to the Japan Whaling Association, the practice of whaling in Japan is said to date back to the 12th century, when fishermen began hunting the sea creatures with harpoons.

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

It makes no secret however of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables.

"Whale meat is tasty, but I wonder if we need to increase the volume of catches even at the cost of being isolated internationally", a 41-year-old customer at a whale meat restaurant in Tokyo told the Kyodo news agency.

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