Japan to Leave International Whaling Commission to Resume Whaling

Earlier this month Japanese officials proposed legalising commercial whaling

Earlier this month Japanese officials proposed legalising commercial whaling

He tweeted: "The UK is strongly opposed to commercial whaling and will continue to fight for the protection and welfare of these majestic mammals".

Australia has expressed "extreme" disappointment at Japan's decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial hunts.

If Japan leaves the IWC, it can not continue its research whaling programme in the Antarctic Ocean.

The IWC, established in 1946 to conserve and manage the world's whale and cetacean population, introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

Japan once labeled its whaling vessels with prominent "Research" tags - but the country will resume commercial whaling hunts in 2019.

The announcement had been widely expected and comes after Japan failed in a bid earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling.

The environmental group Greenpeace condemned Wednesday's announcement and disputed Japan's view that whale stocks have recovered, and noted that ocean life is being threatened by pollution as well as overfishing.

Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement: "The declaration today is out of step with the global community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures". In recent years, Japan was often accused of using the guise of "scientific research" as an ethical and legal cover for its hunting trips to Antarctica.

However, Australia and New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters welcomed Japan's withdrawal from the southern ocean.

Critics say it's long past time for commercial whaling to end.

A whale breaches near a boat in Antarctica
Tracy HickmanA whale breaches near a boat in Antarctica

Hiroya Ebina, mayor of Kushiro in Hokkaido, pointed out the importance of looking into the relationship between whales and fishery resources, which some say are decreasing partly because they are eaten by whales.

Japan has caught between about 200 and 1,200 whales each year, saying it is investigating stock levels to see whether the whales are endangered or not.

A number of coastal communities in Japan have hunted whales for centuries, but consumption in the country surged only after World War Two when whales were the main source of meat.

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.

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

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

It has been accused of conducting commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research and has been estimated to kill 450 whales annually.

Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a moratorium adopted in 1982 by the IWC.

Paul Watson, the founder of the anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd, also said in a statement that Japan would be declaring itself "a pirate whaling nation" by withdrawing from the IWC.

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