Sir Geoffrey Palmer: More nations could follow Japan's lead on whaling

28 December, 2018, 09:44 | Author: Courtney Reynolds
  • Japan announces IWC withdrawal to resume commercial whaling

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's own constituency includes the whaling port of Shimonseki, and he has also come under pressure from influential lawmakers within his Liberal Democratic Party whose electoral districts include whaling or dolphin-hunting communities.

Japan will resume commercial whaling from July in its waters and exclusive economic zone while ending its controversial hunts in the Antarctic, it said on Wednesday, as it announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Under IWC rules, Japan's withdrawal will become effective on June 30, enabling the country to restart commercial whaling in nearby waters and within its exclusive economic zone starting in July, a move prone to worldwide condemnation.

Output means that Japan joins Iceland and Norway, openly rejecting the IWC ban on commercial whaling.

The Japanese whaling fleet is now in the Southern Ocean whaling for another season of so-called "scientific whaling", aiming to kill 333 Antarctic minke whales. Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and the meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years when the country was desperately poor.

Suga said Japan made a decision to leave the whaling commission after more than 30 years of unsuccessful efforts to get it to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Japan annually consumes about 5,000 tons of whale meat from the research hunts, mainly by the older generation who feel nostalgic about the meat.

By turning its back on the IWC, Japan's defiance massages the ideology of the country's small but powerful reactionary political clique and props up an industry that resonates with the same streaks of culturally conservative significance. Japan has until now justified its annual Antarctic whale hunt in the name of scientific research, which it says is necessary to evaluate global populations of whale species.

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Greenpeace Japan said the decision was "out of step with the worldwide community", and argued whale stocks and the oceans generally deserved better protection. Last season, its scientific research expeditions caught almost 600 whales in the Antarctic and the northwest Pacific.

"With the Japanese whaling fleet hunting whales in our Southern Ocean, the Australian Government must demand they bring their fleet home immediately and take legal action if they don't".

Suga told reporters that Japan's formal notice of withdrawal from the whaling commission would be submitted before the end of the year and that the government would seek to work with other like-minded countries to "restore the original functions of the IWC".

"The truth is Japan never stopped commercial whaling".

Japan's request for a resumption of commercial whaling was most recently denied at the IWC meeting in September.

Hopefully it will not be "Japan" that resumes whaling as a nationalised industry financed by taxes, as the "scientific research" is, but private companies that will not be able to turn a profit and will eventually sink beneath the waves. But critics say they doubt commercial whaling could be a sustainable industry if Japanese young people don't see whales as food.

Although this prevented Sea Shepherd from returning to the Southern Ocean in 2018, it also placed Japan in a position of expending huge resources on continuous security.

The government argues that Japan can comply with this rule by participating in the IWC as an observer. "Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales".

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