Japan intends to resume commercial whaling for the first time in 30 years, according to the Kyodo News.
Citing “government sources”, the newspaper claims that Japan intends to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and operate within its exclusive economic zone, as opposed to the Antarctic Ocean and elsewhere.
“There are fishermen in Japan making their living by whaling and we can’t simply end it,” an anonymous government official told Kyodo.
The country has not yet formalized the withdrawal, however, and a government official told The Guardian that the Kyodo report is incorrect. Despite this, the Japanese state minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Masaaki Taniai, did express the need to “consider every available option” after a vote that didn’t go Japan’s way at the September meeting of the IWC.
Japan, Norway, and Iceland are among the few countries that still whale on a commercial scale despite the IWC’s 36-year-old ban. Japan dresses up its hunt as “research”, despite an international court order, while Norway and Iceland use clauses allowing them to contest the IWC ban. Iceland even left the IWC before returning with the stipulation that it could object to the ban and continue its hunt.
By withdrawing from the international commission, Japan would give up its right to “research” whaling in international waters but could make up for it with open commercial whaling in its own exclusive economic zone.
“We will continue to work through the Commission to conserve whales and remain opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Australian environment minister Melissa Price said in response.
A 2012 report found that Japan’s whaling industry lost more than $10 million a year in the preceding 20 years. Whale watching, on the other hand, was a $2 billion global industry.