Conservation groups slam Japan's 'deeply concerning' proposal to return to whaling

Conservation groups slam Japan's 'deeply concerning' proposal to return to whaling

Japan was at the centre of an worldwide outcry last night after reports emerged that it was planning to resume the commercial hunting of whales.

Japan has been able to use a clause in the IWC moratorium allowing it to conduct "research" hunts every year and to sell whale meat on the open market, although consumption has plummeted in recent decades.

"We are considering all options" including the possibility of withdrawal from the 89-member IWC, Fisheries Agency official Yuki Morita told AFP.

In a move that will dismay some of Tokyo's closest worldwide friends, the government is expected to announce as early as next week that it is withdrawing from the global Whaling Commission (IWC), the organisation that regulates whaling, after 57 years as a member.

The defeat prompted Japan's IWC commissioner, Joji Morishita, to warn that the country's differences with anti-whaling nations were "very clear" and that it would plan its "next step".

IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in the 1980s due to dwindling stocks.

The IWC was set up for the objective of the conservation and sustainable use of whales.

The nation's attempts over the last 30 years to resume commercial whaling of relatively abundant species such as minke whales have always been stymied by countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

At an IWC general meeting held in September in Brazil, Japan proposed commercial whaling be partially resumed.

Tokyo now observes the moratorium but exploits a loophole to kill hundreds of whales every year for "scientific purposes" as well as to sell the meat through hunting whales in the Southern Ocean since 1987.

The group said it fears Japan may "recruit other pro-whaling nations to leave the IWC, leading to a new chapter of widespread and unauthorized killing of whales for profit". "Japan's official position, that we want to resume commercial whaling as soon as possible, has not changed", the official told The Guardian. Japan's Antarctic catch is now capped at 333 whales a year - about a third of the quota before a 2014 International Court of Justice ruling found that Japanese research whaling wasn't sufficiently scientific. Iceland even left the IWC before returning with the stipulation that it could object to the ban and continue its hunt.

Japan joined the organisation in 1951.

This photo taken on September 14, 2018, shows a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Florianopolis, Brazil.