Japan Reportedly Will Leave International Whaling Group To Resume Commercial Hunts

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"National supports the IWC's moratorium on whaling that was agreed in 1986".

Both stressed Tokyo has not yet changed its whaling policy but Japan threatened to pull out of the IWC in September when the commission rejected its bid to return to commercial whaling.

A USA group dedicated to the protection of whales and dolphins criticized Japan's decision on Thursday. After leaving the IWC, Japan would be able to catch minke and other whale species in waters near the nation and inside its EEZ, so the government plans to resume commercial whaling of species whose stocks have sufficiently recovered.

(Kyodo News) Japan has chose to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in a bid to resume commercial whaling for the first time in about 30 years, government sources said Thursday.

Disappointed by the IWC decision, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa said, "It has become clear that the IWC will not accept different positions or opinions".

While the Japanese government has considered leaving the worldwide body many times in the past over the longstanding rift between pro- and anti-whaling members, the Foreign Ministry had stressed the importance of global cooperation and called for reforming the IWC from within.

But Masayuki Komatsu, a former fisheries official who represented Japan at IWC, questioned if Japan gains anything from withdrawing.

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Japan is not alone in whaling. The government "needs to remove our worries by showing what kind of strategy it will adopt after departure", he added.

However, Japan kills 333 whales each year for so-called "scientific research", due to a loophole in the whaling ban, though most meat goes on sale for human consumption.

As a signatory to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, Japan now conducts its research whaling under the framework of the IWC. In fiscal 1962, some 230,000 tons of whale meat were eaten.

According to Japanese government sources, the country is considering allowing commercial whaling in its nearby seas and within its exclusive economic zone.

In this Greenpeace photo from January 7, 2006, the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru has two minke whales transferred up the ramp of the factory ship in the Southern Ocean.

Even as uncertainties remain over whether whaling will pick up again, traditional whaling municipalities are hoping to pass down whaling traditions and techniques they fear would otherwise be lost.