The Yushin Maru hauls in a harpooned whale. Japan says its official position on commercial whaling and the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has not changed, a but a report by the Kyodo news agency on 20 December 2018 claimed Japan would withdraw from the IWC in 2019. Photo: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / EPA

By Justin McCurry and Graham Readfearn
19 December 2018

TOKYO (The Guardian) – Japan is to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume commercial whaling next year, a report claimed on Thursday, in a move that drew condemnation from Australia, with other anti-whaling nations expected to follow suit.

Japan will inform the IWC of its decision by the end of the year, Kyodo news agency said, months after the body rejected its latest bid to resume commercial whaling.

Kyodo quoted unnamed government sources as saying Japan would abandon its controversial, and expensive, expeditions to the Southern Ocean and instead permit whaling fleets to operate in its coastal waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A fisheries agency official denied the report, however, insisting no decision had been taken on whether to withdraw from the IWC, which banned commercial whaling in 1986.

“Japan’s official position, that we want to resume commercial whaling as soon as possible, has not changed,” the official told the Guardian. “But reports that we will leave the IWC are incorrect.”

Australia’s environment minister, Melissa Price, said it remained opposed to “all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific whaling’”, adding: “While we would strongly prefer Japan to remain a party to the convention and a member of the commission, the decision to withdraw is a matter for Japan.”

Agence France-Presse quoted an official as saying the agency was “considering all options”, including the possible withdrawal from the 89-member commission. A foreign ministry official confirmed “all options are on the table but nothing formal has been decided yet”.

Conservation campaigners welcomed the possible end to whaling in the Southern Ocean but warned that by withdrawing from the IWC, Japan risked becoming a “pirate whaling nation”.

“We would like to wholeheartedly celebrate an end to Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean, but if Japan leaves the International Whaling Commission and continues killing whales in the north Pacific it will be operating completely outside the bounds of international law,” said Nicola Beynon, head of campaigns at Humane Society International in Australia.

“This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for international rule.” [more]

Japan to resume commercial whaling after leaving IWC – report

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