The government of Japan is reportedly planning to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC), with the intention of resuming commercial hunting.
Although there has not yet been an official confirmation, the news has been reported by various Japanese news outlets.
There have already been suggestions this alleged decision could harm Japan’s relationship with the international community, and has already been criticised by anti-whaling nations.
The Japanese government reportedly relayed this decision to Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers on Thursday, December 20. The government is expected to justify this controversial choice by citing the recovery of some species of whale.
It is thought preparations for restarting commercial whaling within Japan’s nearby waters and exclusive economic zones has already begun.
These alleged plans have been reported by Kyodo News, who have claimed the decision could be announced as early as early as next week.
Anti-whaling nations have blocked previous proposals by Japan to resume commercial whaling, with the IWC rejecting such a motion at a meeting in Brazil during September 2018. This rejection prompted Tokyo to warn they could leave the IWC altogether.
Some lawmakers have said Japan would be unable to resume commercial whaling while still having IWC membership.
Executive director at Greenpeace Japan, Sam Annesley, told Kyodo News:
This snub to multilateralism is unacceptable.
We hope that Japan will reverse its decision and take its place beside the nations trying to undo the damage human activities have done to whale populations.
This is terrible news! Greenpeace condemns the Japan government’s decision.
We must protect these majestic creatures and their ocean home. https://t.co/1oMgHEH9oe
— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) December 20, 2018
The IWC was established in 1948 for the purpose of conserving whales and to ensure the ‘orderly development of the whaling industry’.
On 1982, The IWC introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling. Japan became a member of the IWC in 1951 and stopped commercial whaling in in 1988.
In 1987, Japan began whaling for research purposes, in order to study whale resources. This practice drew criticism from those who believed this was merely a cover for commercial whaling.
Japan will not be able to continue research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean if they leave the IWC.
A government official told Kyodo News how officials will seek to explain their position to other countries which are against whaling:
There are fishermen in Japan making their living by whaling and we can’t simply end it.
Japan is looking to leave the IWC in June 2019 and resume commercial whaling. Please object however you can. Whale hunting should not be allowed. As the old GreenPeace slogan says "Save the Whales". #japan #Whaling
— John McCarthy (@Danford2013) December 20, 2018
Chief executive for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, told The Guardian:
Leaving the IWC would set a very dangerous precedent for other international treaties and conventions. Not satisfied with harpooning whales, it now looks like Japan is threatening to harpoon the future of the IWC.
The IWC has become the driving force for global whale conservation efforts in the 21st century. If Japan is serious about the future of the world’s whales, they would not leave the IWC.
— ANIMAL JUSTICE NSW (@AnimalNsw2015) December 20, 2018
In order to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 2019, Japan will need to notify the commission by January 1. A withdrawal decision would then become effective as of June 30.
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