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Japan will resume commercial whaling in 2019
26 December 2018, 04:09 | Ross Houston
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Japan now uses a scientific exemption to kill hundreds of whales a year, but critics have condemned it as a cover for commercial whaling, noting that meat from the annual hunt often ends up being sold.
Yoshihide Suga, a government spokesman, made the announcement at a press briefing in Tokyo today.
Japan says it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial hunts but says it will no longer go to the Antarctic to hunt.
Japan has said the IWC has become more like an opponent of whaling than an organization aiming for sustainability.
"With this move the Japanese government is officially turning its back on worldwide 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).
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters welcomed Japan's decision to halt Antarctic whaling but said he was disappointed with the decision to resume any commercial whaling.
Astrid Fuchs, program manager for Whale and Dolphin Conservation told National Geographic Japan's decision could have global ramifications.
"We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", he added.
It reverses decades of policy as the commission issued an global suspension of commercial hunting in 1986 but Japan has since been whale hunting in the name of scientificresearch, with much of the meat also ending up on store shelves.
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In past years, hundreds of whales were killed in what Japanese officials called "research" or "scientific" efforts.
While this is a benefit for the Antarctic, it may simply be because the nation is no longer able to hunt on the high seas, where they were claiming to be conducting "scientific whaling" while still a member of the IWC.
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.
"This is devastating news for the whales and we can only hope that conservation-minded countries like the United Kingdom will take appropriate measures to respond to Japan's decision, including the threat of sanctions".
Influential lawmakers in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party whose constituencies include whaling communities have long lobbied for a resumption of commercial whaling.
A whale breaches near a boat in Antarctica.
Tokyo argues that whaling is an important part of Japan's traditions, and Suga said the withdrawal would allow fishermen to "pass our country's rich whaling culture onto the next generation".
"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.
Japan has cut back on its catch as Japanese consume less whale meat.
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