Japan says it will resume commercial whaling, leave worldwide commission

Sir Geoffrey Palmer

It has continued to carry out whaling activities with research vessels, particularly in Antarctica.

Japanese whaling towns welcomed Wednesday the government's decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission, but some local residents voiced concern that it could lead to an escalation in protests.

"The whaling will be conducted in accordance with worldwide law and within the catch limits calculated in accordance with the method adopted by the IWC to avoid negative impact on cetacean resources", Suga said.

Mr Suga said the IWC has been overlooked by conservationists and Japan was frustrated over its attempts to manage whale capitals even though the IWC has a treaty mandate for both whale conservation and development of the whaling industry.

Yes, Japan has been hunting whales for the past 30 years but under a scientific programme, granted as an exception under the IWC ban.

"The declaration today is out of step with the worldwide community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures".

Yoshie Nakatani, an official at the foreign ministry's fisheries division, said Japan would still attend IWC meetings.

"Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called "scientific" whaling", the statement added. "So we made the decision (to leave the IWC)".

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In September, Tokyo sought to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling, arguing that stocks of certain species were now sufficient to support renewed hunting.

"Japan is a valued supporter of the global rules-based system and we had hoped Japan would choose to stay in the commission", Peters said. "Their decision to withdraw is regrettable and Australia urges Japan to return to the Convention and Commission as a matter of priority", the statement read.

The Australian government, often a vocal critic of Japan's whaling policies, said it was "extremely disappointed" with Japan's decision to quit the commission.

"As there may be global criticism, I expect (the government) to try to gain the understanding of anti-whaling nations", he said, adding he hopes whaling for commercial use will be carried out under appropriate resource management in a similar manner to when the country's so-called research whaling was conducted. He said Japan would stop its annual whaling expeditions to the Antarctic and northwest Pacific oceans. He said the country's ships will not hunt in the Antarctic or in the southern hemisphere, which was the main source of concern for Australia.

Tokyo has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the IWC, and has been regularly criticised for catching hundreds of whales a year for "scientific research" despite being a signatory to a moratorium on hunting the animals. Its aged whaling mothership is in need of a costly replacement or refit. Whale meat ends up on store shelves, even though most Japanese no longer eat it. Whale consumption accounted for 0.1 percent of all Japanese meat consumption, according to the Asahi newspaper.

To combat the loss of whale meat, Japan switched to what it calls research whaling. Whaling "will be conducted in accordance with global law", said Suga.

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

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