Japan says it will resume commercial whaling, leave worldwide commission

A minke whale is unloaded at a port after a whaling for scientific purposes in Kushiro

A 66-year-old man who sells processed whale meat products in Taiji said he was unable to secure enough stock in the years when so-called research whaling was disrupted by activists.

Japan has said the IWC has become more like an opponent of whaling than an organization aiming for sustainability. Hunting will be allowed in waters near Japan and within the country's exclusive economic zone. He said Japan would stop its annual whaling expeditions to the Antarctic and northwest Pacific oceans, noting that non-signatory states are not allowed to do so.

Japan's decision followed the IWC's latest rejection of its bid to resume commercial whaling at a September meeting, which Suga said showed it was impossible to bridge the gap between whaling advocates and anti-whaling members. Since 1987, however, it has hunted whales for research purposes, a practice criticised internationally as a cover for commercial whaling.

The IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling was adopted in 1982, and Japan halted commercial whaling in 1988.

"The declaration today is out of step with the worldwide community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures", global conservationist group Greenpeace said.

The Japanese government has confirmed it will restart commercial whaling in July when it exits the IWC.

The Australian government, often a vocal critic of Japan's whaling policies, said in a statement that it was "extremely disappointed" with Japan's decision to quit the commission.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters also urged Japan to stay in the IWC. "We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling in order to advance the protection of the ocean's ecosystems".

Japanese Fisheries Agency official and longtime IWC negotiator Hideki Moronuki said Japan would use the IWC's method to carefully determine a catch quota, but declined to give an estimate.

Global conservation group Sea Shepherd has long protested against Japan's whaling programme, often trailing its whaling ships in Antarctic waters.

"With this move the Japanese government is officially turning its back on global cooperation around conservation measures, and one of the greatest conservation agreements ever made - the ban on commercial whaling", said Astrid Fuchs of Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC). "We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", Suga added.

Much of the meat ends up in shops, even though most Japanese no longer eat it. Whale consumption accounted for 0.1 percent of all Japanese meat consumption, according to the Asahi newspaper.

While the Japanese political class has sought the resumption of commercial whaling activities, campaigners say eating whale is becoming "less and less popular".

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