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  • A Japanese ship injuring a whale with its first harpoon attempt in the Southern Ocean.

    A Japanese ship injuring a whale with its first harpoon attempt in the Southern Ocean. | Photo: EFE

Published 26 December 2018
Opinion

Japan will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an Inter-governmental organization that did not allow the Asian country to hunt whales commercially.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced Tuesday that his country will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume commercial whaling.

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"From July 2019, after the withdrawal comes into effect on June 30, Japan will conduct commercial whaling within Japan’s territorial sea and its exclusive economic zone, and will cease the take of whales in the Antarctic Ocean/the Southern Hemisphere," Suga said.

Japan's decision followed the IWC's latest rejection of its bid to resume commercial whaling at a September meeting. According to Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, such rejection showed it was impossible to bridge the gap between whaling advocates and anti-whaling members.

The IWC is an Inter-governmental Organisation whose purpose is the conservation of whales and the management of whaling. Created in 1949, this organization has a current membership of 89 governments from countries all over the world, which have agreed to prevent indiscriminate whale hunting in the oceans. Japan was an IWC member since 1951.

In 1986, the IWC imposed a moratorium that prohibits the hunting of cetaceans for commercial purposes but allows it to conduct scientific studies.

Nevertheless, Japan continued whale capture alleging scientific ends until the International Court of Justice (ICJ) dismantled the country's arguments and ordered the Japanese authorities to end the activity in 2014.

Japan's whale hunting in the Antarctic was stopped then but it was reinitiated the following year under a new Japanese scientific program.

Like other environmental organizations, Greenpeace condemned on Tuesday the withdrawal of Japan from the IWC.

"The declaration is out of step with the international community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures. The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling," Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace-Japan, said and added, "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."

In the same vein, Australia urged Japan to return to the IWC as a matter of priority.

"The Australian Government is extremely disappointed," Melissa Price, Minister of Environment said and stressed that "Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling."

Despite widespread international criticism and scientific evidence, Japan maintains that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture. 

Much of the whale meat, however, end up on store shelves since most Japanese no longer consume it.

According to recent data, Japanese domestic whale consumption accounted for 0.1 percent of all the country's meat consumption.

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