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Japan to start commercial whaling again next year

Japan to start commercial whaling again next year

Japan is to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume commercial whaling from July, it announced on Wednesday, abandoning a decades-old campaign to persuade the commission to allow it to hunt whales commercially.

Japan made a decision to withdraw from the organization since its calls for the whaling resumption due to the growing number of whales had not been supported by other states in the IWC, the NHK World broadcaster reported.

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.

It reverses decades of policy as the commission issued an global suspension of commercial hunting in 1986 but Japan has since been whale hunting in the name of scientific research, with much of the meat also ending up on store shelves.

Japan says it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial hunts but says it will no longer go to the Antarctic to hunt.

The statement reaffirmed Australia's opposition to all forms of whaling and its pledge to work with the commission to see that the global moratorium is observed.

Some towns in Japan such as Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, have a whaling tradition but have become the focus of intense worldwide pressure by conservation groups.

The announcement has angered conservationists. "We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

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.

Greenpeace has criticised Japan's decision
Greenpeace has criticised Japan’s decision

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

"It's clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of year, away from the spotlight of worldwide media, but the world sees this for what it is", Greenpeace Japan said in a statement.

In the vote at that IWC meeting, 41 member countries opposed Japan's proposal to lift the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling, while 27 members supported it, and two abstained.

"Even after the withdrawal, I hope both whales and other fishery resources can be used sustainably under proper management, based on the accumulated data", Ebina said. "The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling".

It will still be bound by certain global laws, despite leaving the IWC.

"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", said Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan. Whaling "will be conducted in accordance with global law", said Suga. In the future, Japanese whaling ships will not operate in the Antarctic.

The ever-dwindling demand means an uncertain outlook for Japan's whaling. Since 1987, however, it has hunted whales for what it calls research purposes, a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling.

It means that whales can be taken for scientific studies and the meat can later be sold for consumption.

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