Winston Peters critical as Japan announces whaling will resume

Winston Peters critical as Japan announces whaling will resume

Winston Peters critical as Japan announces whaling will resume

A Japanese whaling ship leaves the port of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan to resume whale hunting in the Antarctic.

Japan has revealed it is leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and will start hunting whales for business use, but said it will no longer go to the Antarctic.

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.

"We have made a decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year", Yoshihide Suga, top spokesperson for the Japanese government, told reporters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that Japan's commercial whaling will be limited to its territorial and economic waters.

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

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, but has reduced its catch following worldwide protests and declining demand for whale meat at home.

The research programme has been criticised as a cover for commercial hunting as the meat is sold on the market at home.

Japan has said the IWC has become more like an opponent of whaling than an organization aiming for sustainability.

"As a result of modern fleet technology, overfishing in both Japanese coastal waters and high seas areas has led to the depletion of many whale species", Greenpeace International said.

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

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Japan began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after the worldwide whaling moratorium began.

Despite the fact that Japan officially refrained from whaling for about 30 years, whale meat from time to time could be found in the country's supermarkets and restaurants.

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

The small town has frequently faced demonstrations by anti-whaling groups after gaining global recognition in the Oscar-winning 2009 US conservationist documentary film "The Cove", which was critical of the local fishing industry for capturing and killing dolphins in drive hunts. "The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling".

The government plans to notify the IWC of its intention by January 1, a move expected to draw criticism not only in foreign countries but also in Japan.

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Ahead of the announcement, activist groups warned Japan against the withdrawal.

"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", said Sam Annesley, the Executive Director at Greenpeace Japan.

It reverses decades of policy as the commission issued an worldwide 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.

Following years of "scientific" whaling, Japan's whalers will resume commercial operations in 2019, according to a government decision.

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

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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".

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