Published: Wed, December 26, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Japan to resume commercial whale hunting despite worldwide outcry

Japan to resume commercial whale hunting despite worldwide outcry

For a number of years, Japan has been killing whales for what they claim was for research, but now it will hunt openly in its own waters.

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 worldwide body.

Japan has revealed it is leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and will start hunting whales for business use, but said it will no longer go to the Antarctic.

Tomiji Saito, the deputy head of a local tourism association and the organizer of a whaling festival, said the nation's restart of commercial whaling for the first time in about 30 years is good news.

The small town has frequently faced demonstrations by anti-whaling groups after gaining global recognition in the Oscar-winning 2009 US conservationist documentary film "The Cove", which was critical of the local fishing industry for capturing and killing dolphins in drive hunts.

Japan has deflected worldwide criticism and staunchly defended commercial whale hunting.

Despite the 1986 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling to protect whale populations from extinction, Japan nevertheless kills an estimated 450 whales annually.

Leaving the IWC means Japanese whalers will be able to resume hunting in Japanese coastal waters of minke and other whales now protected by the IWC.

The government said the decision not to hunt in the Southern Ocean, where Australia provides protection, would ensure the Antarctic "will finally be true sanctuaries for all whales".

Nevertheless, so-called scientific research hunts were exceptionally allowed under a controversial clause in the Antarctic Treaty.

Tokyo maintains most whale species are not endangered, and eating whale meat is part of its culture.

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

The resumption of commercial whaling is an unusual decision for Japan, which stresses multilateralism in its diplomacy, and it sparked swift criticism from environmental groups and others who believe all whales should be protected.

In the 1950s, the practice reached its peak amid growing demand for whale meat as a key source of protein in the years following World War II, when the nation was poor and recovering from the devastation.

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.

Hideki Moronuki, a senior official at the Fishery Agency, told reporters: "A withdrawal is not the best option, but it is a better option in order to achieve Japan's major objective of commercial whaling".

It makes no secret of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables, and argues that stocks of certain whales are now sufficient to allow commercial hunts to resume.

Around 200,000 tons of whale meat was consumed in Japan each year in the 1960s, but it has fallen sharply to around 5,000 tons in recent years, according to government data.

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