Japan to resume commercial whaling in 2019

The Japanese government is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), in a bid to resume commercial whaling for the first time in 30 years.

Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, reported that the government informed members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Thursday December 20. It was confirmed Wednesday December 26 by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in a press conference.

The IWC passed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982, coming into effect in 1986. Japan ceased commercial whaling in 1988, but has been continuing research whaling under a scientific programme, granted as an exception under the IWC ban. The research program see’s Japan kill 200-1200 whales  a year, and has been criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling.

The decision to leave comes after the IWC rejected Japan’s proposal to allow a return to commercial whaling earlier in 2018. Japan leaving the IWC will see an end  to it’s current whaling in the Southern Ocean, instead permitting whaling fleets to operate in its coastal waters and exclusive economic zone.

In response to the intial reports, Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan said “We hope that Japan will reverse its decision and take its place beside the nations trying to undo the damage human activities have done to whale populations.” The Australian Government has also said it is “extremely disappointed” that Japan is withdrawing from the IWC.

Japan was required to officially notify the IWC by January 1 to leave the commission.

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