Sir Geoffrey Palmer: More nations could follow Japan's lead on whaling

Mindy Sparks
December 29, 2018

Japan's decision to exit the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling will likely have an influence on the export of Icelandic whale meat to the country, says Árni Finnsson, director of the Icelandic Nature Conservation Association.

In a statement a government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said commercial whaling would be restricted to Japanese territorial waters and economic zones.

The announcement yesterday has spiked fears in conservationists that certain whales, such as minke whales, that are protected by the IWC will now be at risk of being freely hunted by the Japanese.

"What we're really concerned about is the precedent this is setting", she said.

Count Japan's own whalers among those unhappy with the government's plan to resume commercial hunts - but not in the bountiful whaling grounds around Antarctica.

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan should halt its Antarctic whaling. Non-signatory states are not allowed to do so, according to Japanese Fisheries Agency officials.

Japan has long defied such protests to conduct what it calls scientific research whaling, having repeatedly said its ultimate goal was to whale commercially again.

"The out of step with the worldwide community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures", global conservationist group Greenpeace said. "The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling".

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters was among officials to object to the move Wednesday, calling whaling an "outdated and unnecessary practice".

Australia urged Japan to return to the IWC "as a matter of priority", its environment minister, Melissa Price, said in a statement. He said Japan plans to use seven existing whaling hubs on the Pacific coast for the upcoming commercial hunts.

If Japan succeeded in persuading "like-minded" nations to join it, this could lead to an increase in whaling, he said. Japan now hunts about 600 whales annually in the Antarctic and the Northern Pacific. Critics say they doubt commercial whaling can be a sustainable industry because younger Japanese may not view the animals as food.

Japan has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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