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Japan to resume commercial whaling in 2019, defying decades-old intl moratorium

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Japan announces IWC withdrawal to resume commercial whaling

Japan has announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) next year, and will resume commercial hunting in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone from July.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga says the withdrawal will come into effect at the end of June 2019, and that commercial whaling will be confined to Japanese waters and its economic zone, in accordance with global law.

A proposal to allow the commercial hunt of minke whales and other species which Japan believes are "relatively abundant" was recently rejected.

In a notable shift, Japan also said it will no longer conduct controversial hunts in the Antarctic Ocean - where its fleet of whaling ships have killed 333 whales in each of the past two years, under the justification of performing whale research.

Japan is not the first country to resume commercial whaling, as it joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying the IWC's 1986 ban.

However, Japan's conservative government argues that there is a need to pass whaling culture on to the next generation.

"Japan now becomes a pirate whaling nation killing these ocean leviathans completely outside the bounds of worldwide law", Humane Society global president Kitty Block said.

The government confirmed on Wednesday that it will leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on June 30, ending weeks of speculation.

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"The declaration today is out of step with the global community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures", Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement.

Australia's IWC commissioner, Nick Gales, told the meeting that there was "little and diminishing demand" for commercial whaling industry, The Guardian reported.

Its managing director in New Zealand, Michael Lawry, said while it was concerning endangered whales would now be hunted for commercial purposes near Japan, the decision had a lot of positive outcomes. Australia's foreign minister, Marise Payne, and its environment minister, Melissa Price, said in a joint statement: "Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms..."

The Japanese government had tried to persuade the IWC to allow its commercial whaling, but the global organization rejected the bid in September.

Whale meat was vital in post-WWII Japan but its consumption dropped significantly as the country became wealthier during the following decades. "This is the path of a pirate whaling nation, with a troubling disregard for worldwide rule".

Fisheries officials have said Japan annually consumes thousands of tons of whale meat from the research hunts, mainly by older Japanese seeking a nostalgic meal.

While the Japanese political class has sought the resumption of commercial whaling activities, campaigners say eating whale is becoming "less and less popular".

The Japanese government, under pressure from the local fishing industry, has decided it could not restart commercial whaling while being a member of the global body responsible for the conservation of whales.

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