Japan said on Wednesday that it would withdraw from an international agreement and resume commercial whaling, a defiant move to prop up an industry that still has cultural significance there, despite plummeting demand for whale meat.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said the country would leave the International Whaling Commission, which established a moratorium on hunting whales that took effect in 1986.
The international agreement never stopped Japanese whaling, because it allowed the country to continue killing whales for scientific research while selling the meat. Critics considered the research a sham, little more than a cover for commercial whaling.
In recent years, Japan has had an annual quota in the Antarctic of 333 minke whales, which in the 2017-18 hunting season included 122 pregnant females. As part of its withdrawal from the international commission, Japan will stop its annual hunts in the Antarctic and limit whalers to its own waters. Commercial whaling will resume in July, Mr. Suga said.
Mr. Suga said the International Whaling Commission focused too much on conservation and had failed to develop a sustainable whaling industry, which is one of its stated goals.
“In its long history, Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes,” Mr. Suga said in a statement. “Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales.”
Japan is the biggest donor to the IWC, and there are concerns its departure will lower the commission’s profile and undermine its conservation efforts.
But of more concern for Tokyo is the reputational damage it could suffer from pulling out, similar to the criticism the United States has faced for withdrawing from international frameworks such as the Paris agreement on climate change, in the view of some experts.
Yuichi Hosoya, professor of international politics at Keio University, said Japan’s move was “symbolic of a wave of populism spreading over the world.” [Continue reading…]