Int'l Whaling Commission Aware of Japan's Plan to Withdraw, Preparing Statement

Rosemary Collier
December 28, 2018

The announcement of withdrawal came after months of threatening to leave the worldwide organization.

It will also cease whaling activities in the Antarctic Ocean, according to an official statement released Wednesday, and hunt species with so-called "healthy" population numbers.

Importantly, Japan will join Iceland and Norway in openly defying the ban on commercial whale hunting.

Former Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, who now serves as adviser to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's fisheries committee, said he supported a decision to withdraw from the IWC, in an interview with Japan's NHK television.

Leaving the IWC means Japanese whalers will be able to resume hunting in Japanese coastal waters of minke and other whales now protected by the IWC.

Japan operated under a "scientific" whaling program, which enabled the country to exploit a loophole in worldwide regulations that allow certain quotas of whales to be killed for research.

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This decision was made after the beginning of the year Japan was unable to convince the ICC to enable it to restore commercial whaling. Australia's government said it was "extremely disappointed" and urged Japan to reconsider.

Ahead of the announcement the Australian Marine Conservation Society said Australians would be able to celebrate the end of whaling in the country's Southern Ocean but remained alarmed about the potential consequences of unregulated whaling by Japan elsewhere.

"We are aware of the announcement from Japan".

Japan has claimed stocks have recovered enough to resume commercial hunting. "No more pretense of research whaling". For one, although the country will continue to hunt whales in the North Pacific, it is withdrawing from the Antarctic, where it had been flagrantly hunting in protected waters. And on the political front, whaling constituencies are heartlands of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"It's not like we are turning our back on the IWC and abandoning global cooperation", she said.

Tokyo argues that the IWC has failed to live up to its initial dual mandate in 1946 to find a balance between preserving whale stocks and allowing the "orderly development" of the whaling industry.

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"Regrettably, we have reached a decision that it is impossible in the IWC to seek the coexistence of states with different views", he said at a news conference. As the Japanese news media reported last week that a withdrawal from the whaling commission was being considered, Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd's founder, said in a statement that he considered it good news.

Masayuki Komatsu, who served as the chief negotiator for Japan's Fisheries Agency from 1991 to 2005, called the decision to withdraw a "misjudgment" and said it would not necessarily stem the steady decline of Japan's whaling industry over the past decade and a half.

Annesley said Japan's announcement "is out of step with the worldwide community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures".

Faced with collapsing whale stocks, the IWC agreed to a moratorium on commercial whaling from 1986, a move credited with saving several species from extinction. Japan is the biggest financial contributor to the IWC, which may now have to find ways to replace lost funding.

Kindleysides said Japan is able to perform its "scientific whaling" under a permit received from the IWC. It makes no secret however of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables. Japanese people ate more than 233,000 tons of whale meat per year in 1962, but just 3,000 tons in 2016, according to government data.

"Japan has failed to persuade the worldwide courts to allow them to kill whales under the pretence of scientific research".

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