Japan is offering a compromise when it comes to its new whaling territories, though wildlife organizations may not see it that way. The country has just announced that it will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) next year, meaning that it will stop hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean but resume hunting whales for commercial purposes in its own waters in 2019.
According to the official statement by Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, “Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes. Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities.” Conservation groups, however, are predictably outraged by the announcement. Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan, called Japan’s new whaling regulations “out of step with the international community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures.”
Although commercial whaling was banned by an IWC moratorium in 1986, Japan has exploited a loophole to continue hunting whales for “scientific research” while selling the meat. Iceland and Norway also ignore the moratorium and have continued their commercial whaling campaigns.
At the IWC symposium in September 2018, a non-binding resolution was approved stating that commercial whaling is not a valid economic or scientific activity. Despite whale hunting and whale meat’s decline in popularity and acceptability, the Japanese government continues to lobby for its right to continue commercial whaling.