Australia opposes Japan's plan to resume commercial whaling

James Marshall
December 24, 2018

Disputed reports state Japan is set to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission, a move that would free it to resume commercial whaling.

But Japanese government officials are still taking a cautious approach because of the potential worldwide backlash that would ensue should Japan make the rare move of leaving an global organization.

Commercial whaling now conducted in waters near Japan avoids 13 types of whale, including minke, which the IWC has banned from being caught. The IWC adopted a declaration calling for the continuation of a moratorium of commercial whaling, impressing upon the worldwide community its commitment to protecting whales.

Japan has since switched to what it calls research whaling, and says stocks have recovered enough that commercial hunts should resume.

The IWC's annual meeting in Brazil this past September prompted Japan to withdraw from the organization.

The news was met with a mixed reaction in Japan.

"No decision has yet been made on what course we take", Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at his December 20 news conference when asked about reports that Japan was preparing to leave the IWC. "IWC has become a dysfunctional organization".

The decision, which will be officially announced as early as next week, comes after decades of confrontation between pro- and anti-whaling members of the IWC.

"We are considering all options" including the possibility of withdrawal from the 89-member IWC, fisheries agency official Yuki Morita said.

In October, a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora panel pointed out that the sale of meat of sei whales Japan caught in research whaling in the Pacific Ocean violated the pact.

The popularity of whale meat in Japan has declined over time - along with its profitability.

Whale meat was widely consumed in Japan amid food shortages in the years following World War II and was a feature of school lunches. "Although there are concerns this might have a negative impact on the preservation of some species, the government should take control and decide details such as how many whales can be caught", Kai said.

Whale meat now sold in the Japanese market comes from what Japan calls research whaling in the Northwest Pacific and Antarctic, from smaller whales not controlled by the IWC, as well as imports from other whaling countries such as Iceland.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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