Japan to allow commercial whaling for first time since 1986

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announces Japan's withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission during a press conference at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, on December 26, 2018.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that Tokyo made a decision to pull out from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) starting in 2019 to resume commercial whaling in July after a 30-year pause, local media reported.

"Commercial whaling. will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zones".

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday declined comment on the expected decision.

Tokyo argues that the IWC has failed to live up to its initial dual mandate in 1946 to find a balance between preserving whale stocks and allowing the "orderly development" of the whaling industry.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries but has subdued its catch following worldwide protests and diminishing demand for whale meat at home.

A Japanese whaling ship leaves the port of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan to resume whale hunting in the Antarctic. It has continued to carry out whaling activities with research vessels, particularly in Antarctica.

After a hiatus, Japan restarted its whaling program, and began pressuring the IWC to set quotas for commercial whaling, something that was supported by Iceland and Norway, and was specified as a goal in the IWC's charter.

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

The plunge in whale populations in the 1970s ultimately resulted in an global moratorium on the commercial hunting of whales.

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

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

The Australian government, which has long fought the idea of Japan's whaling for scientific purposes, expressed disappointment at the withdrawal, as did New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and environmental organization Greenpeace, which labeled the withdrawal "sneaky".

The decision to withdraw from the IWC followed its latest rejection of Japan's bid to resume commercial whaling at a September meeting, which Suga said showed it was impossible to bridge the gap between whaling advocates and anti-whaling members.

Fuchs said whales are already facing a multitude of man-made threats, including climate change, overfishing, pollution and habitat loss.

Suga said Japan has lost patience with the IWC, citing a lapsed 1990 deadline to modify its whaling moratorium.

Japan is the biggest financial contributor to the IWC, which may now have to find ways to replace lost funding. Protein-rich whale meat was a major source of nutrition in the postwar era when it was served in school lunches.

"Even after the withdrawal, I hope both whales and other fishery resources can be used sustainably under proper management, based on the accumulated data", Ebina said. "Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales".

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

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