Japan to resume commercial whaling

/ AFP

Japan said Wednesday it is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission and will resume commercial whaling next year, sparking criticism from activists and anti-whaling countries including Australia.

The announcement comes after Japan failed earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the commercial hunts would be limited to Japan's territorial waters.

"We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere," he added.

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.

Suga said Japan would officially inform the IWC of its decision by the end of the year, which will mean the withdrawal comes into effect by June 30.

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

But Japan will not be able to continue the so-called scientific research hunts in the Antarctic and elsewhere that it has been exceptionally allowed as an IWC member.

Japan joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying the IWC's ban on commercial whale hunting, and its decision sparked international criticism.

International reaction

Australia's government said it was "extremely disappointed" and urged Japan to reconsider.

"Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called 'scientific' whaling," Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Environment Minister Melissa Price said in a statement.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters also urged Japan to stay in the IWC.

"Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice. We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling," he said.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and the meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years when the country was desperately poor.

But consumption has declined significantly in recent decades, with much of the population saying they rarely or never eat whale meat.

Whale hunting has become a rare thorny subject in Japan's otherwise largely amiable foreign policy, with international opposition only prompting conservatives to dig in deeper in support of the tradition.

Many members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's conservative Liberal Democratic Party are supporters of whaling, and he himself comes from a constituency where whale hunting remains popular.

Tokyo argues that whaling is an important part of Japan's traditions, and Suga said the withdrawal would allow fishermen to "pass our country's rich whaling culture onto the next generation."

In September, Tokyo argued unsuccessfully that stocks of certain species of whale were now sufficient to support renewed hunting.

"At the IWC general meeting in September this year, it became evident once again that those supporting the sustainable use of whale stocks and those supporting protection cannot co-exist, leading us to this conclusion," Suga said.

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."

The number of whales that will be hunted is still unclear

Activist groups slammed Tokyo's decision, with Humane Society International saying Japan would become "a pirate whaling nation killing these ocean leviathans completely outside the bounds of international law."

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

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 is the biggest financial contributor to the IWC, which may now have to find ways to replace lost funding.

Tokyo has long exploited a loophole allowing whales to be killed for "scientific research" and says it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.

It makes no secret however of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables.

It was not yet clear how many whales would be caught each year once Japan resumes commercial whaling, officials said.

Last season, its scientific research expeditions caught nearly 600 whales in the Antarctic and the northwest Pacific.

First published on December 26, 2018

© 2018 AFP. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

2nd death in month of migrant child in U.S. custody prompts policy changes

Customs officials order medical checks of every child in agency's custody, and other steps, after 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died

updated 28M ago

LeBron James strains groin as Lakers defeat Warriors 127-101

Lakers coach Luke Walton said James will undergo an MRI on his groin on Wednesday

4H ago

Audio of 911 call shows student’s concern before ex-boyfriend killed her

Lauren McCluskey, 21, grew increasingly concerned about the handling of her harassment complaint before her ex-boyfriend killed her

5H ago

Biggest Mega Millions Christmas night jackpot ever — $321 million

It could have been a very memorable Christmas for some lucky lottery ticket holder — but Grinch spoiled the party

2H ago

7-year-old who spoke with Trump still believes in Santa

The president told the young girl it was "marginal" for a child of her age to believe in St. Nick

6H ago

2nd death in month of migrant child in U.S. custody prompts policy changes

Customs officials order medical checks of every child in agency's custody, and other steps, after 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died

updated 28M ago

Federal workers struggle as shutdown continues through Christmas

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees will work without pay or be furloughed until the government reopens

9H ago

Migrant child dies in Border Patrol custody; second in a month

Customs and Border Protection said the 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died minutes very late on Christmas Eve

1H ago

Trump says shutdown will continue until border wall demand is met

On Christmas, the president said the government will not reopen until lawmakers approve his $5 billion demand for border wall funding

12H ago

ICE unexpectedly drops hundreds of migrants at El Paso bus station

The agency may release hundreds more there in coming days, local officials say

21H ago

Japan to resume commercial whaling

Environmental groups condemn the decision and dispute Japan's view that whale stocks have recovered enough for hunting

updated 19M ago

Indonesia asks residents to avoid coast near erupting volcano

Official says continuing eruptions could cause landslides and could trigger a second tsunami

5H ago

Migrant child dies in Border Patrol custody; second in a month

Customs and Border Protection said the 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died minutes very late on Christmas Eve

1H ago

Royal family celebrates Christmas as Prince Philip stays home

92-year-old Queen Elizabeth attended Christmas services at Sandringham along with Prince William and Kate, Prince Harry and Meghan, and other royal family members

15H ago

Immersive show uses lasers, lights to bring the Sistine Chapel to life

An immersive new production in Rome brings a modern dimension to a story that's roughly 500 years old: Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel

21H ago

Jordan Peele debuts first trailer for new horror film "Us"

The film follows a family of four who are haunted by the demonic version of themselves

8H ago

Andrea Bocelli teams up with son for emotional duet

The renowned classical singer has just released his first album of new music in 14 years, called "Si"

20H ago

Meet a master craftsman who forges historical documents for the big screen

Ross MacDonald was a printer and illustrator by trade, but a phone call from John Hughes made him go Hollywood

20H ago

Guitar shop handcrafts custom pieces with "bones of old New York"

Rick Kelly pumps out about four custom guitars per month, capturing a bygone era

20H ago

Kevin Spacey charged with sexual assault

The charge comes more than a year after a former Boston news anchor came forward with allegations the disgraced actor sexually assaulted her teenage son at a bar in 2016

22H ago

Russians probe mysterious hole in space capsule

A Russian cosmonaut who recently returned to Earth is revealing more details about the mysterious hole in a Soyuz capsule docked to the International Space Station

14H ago

"Ring of Fire" volcano triggered deadly tsunami

The deadly tsunami that struck Indonesia​ this weekend is just the latest in a series of seismic disasters along the "Ring of Fire"

21H ago

Upcoming app aims to give you big leg up in online privacy battle

FigLeaf's offering seeks to let you learn where your personal data's been been leaked across the internet and arm you with new tools to stay private

Dec 24

In esports, parents push young players to excel

Forget soccer or piano lessons – these days, some parents are encouraging their kids' interest in video gaming

Dec 24

SpaceX launches Air Force's most powerful GPS satellite ever built

Running five days late, SpaceX launched a next-generation navigation satellite Saturday

Dec 23

N.J. surgery center may have infected patients

Thousands of patients are urged to get blood tests after an investigation found lapses in cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments

11H ago

Does America's workforce have a drug problem?

Laboratory data show that drug use in health care, retail and other U.S. industries is on the rise

Dec 24

Blood pressure medication recalled after cancer-causing chemical found

FDA announces that Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited is voluntarily recalling two lots of Losartan potassium tablets

Dec 23

University Of Maryland confirms 40 adenovirus cases

One student at the university has been hospitalized with the illness

Dec 22

164,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products recalled

"Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them"

Dec 24

Biggest Mega Millions Christmas night jackpot ever — $321 million

It could have been a very memorable Christmas for some lucky lottery ticket holder — but Grinch spoiled the party

2H ago

Japan stocks plunge, other Asia markets fall after Wall Street dives

The heavy losses on U.S. markets were triggered by Trump continuing his strong criticism of the Fed

Dec 25

Mnuchin call to "Plunge Protection Team" summons ghost of '08

Treasury Secretary's move to scramble members of an obscure White House group is making some stock analysts nervous

Dec 24

President Trump blames Fed for economic jitters

As market rout deepens, the president is ratcheting up the tension with monetary policymakers

Dec 24

Does America's workforce have a drug problem?

Laboratory data show that drug use in health care, retail and other U.S. industries is on the rise

Dec 24

Audio of 911 call shows student’s concern before ex-boyfriend killed her

Lauren McCluskey, 21, grew increasingly concerned about the handling of her harassment complaint before her ex-boyfriend killed her

5H ago

New DNA tests ordered in 1983 Chino Hills, Calif. quadruple slayings

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown says Kevin Cooper deserves one last shot at proving his contention that he was framed

14H ago

Kevin Spacey charged with sexual assault

The charge comes more than a year after a former Boston news anchor came forward with allegations the disgraced actor sexually assaulted her teenage son at a bar in 2016

22H ago

Woman uses Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer costume during burglary

Fort Collins, Colorado police released surveillance video of her committing the crime

Dec 24

LSU football player kills man trying to rob him and teammate

Two LSU football players were trying to sell an electronic item when one of them fatally shot an 18-year-old man trying to rob them, police say

Dec 23