The government of Japan confirmed yesterday that it is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and will resume commercial whaling operations in the North Pacific.

The IWC, an inter-governmental organization founded in 1946 focused on whale conservation and management of the whaling industry, adopted a moratorium on hunting whales in 1982.

The moratorium allows for IWC member nations to issue whaling permits for scientific research purposes. Japan has openly flouted the moratorium by issuing such permits and selling the harvested whale meat ever since the moratorium took effect in 1986.


According to the New York Times, Japan has set an annual quota of 333 minke whales in the Southern Ocean, which led to the capture and death of 122 pregnant females in the 2017-18 hunting season. In announcing its exit from the IWC, Japan said it will stop hunting whales in the Antarctic and restrict whaling activities to its own waters in the North Pacific starting in July 2019.

The New York Times also reported that Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said that his country is leaving the IWC because the organization has failed to develop a sustainable whaling industry and was instead too focused on conservation.

“In its long history, Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes,” Suga reportedly said. “Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales.”


Credit: Reuters / Toru Hanai

Workers butcher a Baird's Beaked whale at Wada port in Minamiboso, southeast of Tokyo on June 28, 2008.

Environmentalists were quick to blast Japan’s announcement that it would resume commercial whaling.

“By leaving the IWC but continuing to kill whales in the North Pacific, Japan now becomes a pirate whaling nation killing these ocean leviathans completely outside the bounds of international law,” Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International, said in a statement. “For decades Japan has aggressively pursued a well-funded whaling campaign to upend the global ban on commercial whaling. It has consistently failed but instead of accepting that most nations no longer want to hunt whales, it has now simply walked out.”

Block added: “Humane Society International calls on Japan to cease whaling and for other concerned nations to let Japan know that what they propose is unacceptable. At this point in the twenty-first century we need greater international cooperation to help conserve and protect our wild animals and their environment not less.”

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The News Lens has been authorized to publish this article from Mongabay, an environmental science and conservation news and information site. The original article can be found here.

TNL Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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