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Japan resumes commercial whaling for first time in decades

Whaling ships which are set to join the resumption of commercial whaling leave at a port in Kushiro, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan, July 1, 2019. Photo Credit: Kyodo/via REUTERS

Japan resumes commercial whaling for first time in decades

Five fishing boats set sail from a port in northern Japan on Monday marking the end of an era - commercial whaling has resumed in the country after more than three decades.

Japan resumes commercial whaling for first time in decades

The commercial whaling ships have a permit to catch and kill 227 whales – minke, Bryde’s and sei – before the end of the year. The country’s last commercial hunt was in 1986 but it has since continued whaling for what it says is research purposes.

In December, Japan officially withdrew from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), so is no longer subject to its rules. IWC members had agreed to an effective ban on whale hunting, but Japan has long argued it is possible to hunt whales in a sustainable way.

“Japan’s basic policy, of promoting the sustainable use of aquatic living resources based on scientific evidence has not changed,” Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said late last year when it was first announced that Japan would resume commercial whaling. “Under that policy, we have decided to resume commercial whaling.”

The hunts are likely to spark criticism from environmentalists and anti-whaling countries, but whaling officials were in celebratory mood.

“The resumption of commercial whaling has been an ardent wish for whalers across the country,” the head of the agency, Shigeto Hase, said at a departure ceremony in northern Kushiro for the small fleet.

He said the resumption of whaling would ensure “the culture and way of life will be passed on to the next generation.”

Yoshifumi Kai, head of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, added, “my heart is overflowing with happiness, and I’m deeply moved […] People have hunted whales for more than 400 years in my home town.”

Conservationist groups like Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd remain critical of Japan’s resumption of whaling but say there are no concrete plans for action against the country.

Japan “is out of step with the international community”, Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement when Tokyo announced its whaling plans last year.

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, minke and Bryde’s whale are not endangered. Sei whale are classified as endangered but their numbers are increasing.

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