Sea Shepherd's the Bob Barker, left, and the fuel tanker Sun Laurel, right, of Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru, collide in waters near Antarctica.
At a September meeting of the IWC in Brazil, Japan attempted to establish a number of measures that would allow the commercial hunting of "abundant whale stocks/species"; as the BBC reports, Japan primarily kills minke whales, which are protected by the IWC but not now endangered.
They're apparently going to stop killing whales in the Antarctic, basically admitting that all those years of "scientific research" were no such thing; if it was really "scientific research" to ascertain stocks for the resumption of commercial waling in the Antarctic, which is now (thankfully) not going to happen, Japan is admitting that all those thousands of whales who died terrible deaths under the harpoons (more often slow, excruciating death from bleeding or evisceration, or by rifle-shot), died for no reason at all. Critics considered the research a sham, little more than a cover for commercial whaling.
Previous media reports had indicated that government of Japan was considering pulling out of the IWC, but the announcement today formalises the countrys intentions to leave the organisation.
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.
"It's not like we are turning our back on the IWC and abandoning worldwide cooperation", she said.
Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said history has demonstrated the need for global precautionary management of whale populations. 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.
Much of the whale meat in Japan ends up for sale, but most Japanese no longer eat it, according to Reuters.
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Japan joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying the IWC's ban on commercial whale hunting, and its decision sparked worldwide criticism. This will be the past year of Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean, ' he said.
The scheme to pose as researchers will now be dropped and that means there can be absolutely no justification for hunting whales in an internationally established whale sanctuary.
Wildlife groups say Japan's "research" whaling was a thinly veiled attempt to keep the industry alive, making sure boats, skills and a market for whale meat are maintained. "On the other hand, Japan is also recognizing that there is no fully legal path to high-seas commercial whaling, nor was there sufficient demand to make it economically viable".
"Japan's position will become weak", he said in an interview. "No more pretense of research whaling". "If Japan is taken to an worldwide court, it may suffer and lose ground. Rather, I'd stay with the IWC convention and make the best use of its obligations and duties".
Nonetheless, Japanese lawmakers want to promote whales not only as a source of protein but as part of Japan's cultural tradition.
The government argues that Japan can comply with this rule by participating in the IWC as an observer.
Even now, the government seems to have no clear plan for commercial whaling.
"Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales", Suga said.
This article was originally published by The Washington Post.