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Japan says it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial hunts but says it will no longer go to the Antarctic to hunt.

Japan will stop its so-called "scientific whaling" in the Antarctic Ocean, and only fish in seas near Japan and the country's exclusive economic zone.

"We have made a decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year", top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

'The Whale Wars in the Southern Ocean will soon be over.

Japan now joins Iceland and Norway as non-members of the IWC.

Influential lawmakers in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party whose constituencies include whaling communities have long lobbied for a resumption of commercial whaling.

In September, the IWC voted down Japan's bid to resume commercial whaling by 41-27.

The environmental group Greenpeace condemned Wednesday's announcement and disputed Japan's view that whale stocks have recovered, and noted that ocean life is being threatened by pollution as well as overfishing.

"Today's Declaration does not correspond to the steps of the global community, not to mention the protection necessary to preserve the future of our oceans and these magnificent creatures", said Sam Annesley, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan.

"I have attended IWC meetings several times in the past, and I was struck by their extremely biased views", he said.




As the gap between pro-whaling and anti-whaling nations widened with that loss, it was expected Japan would leave the IWC. The wound that is visible on the calf's side was reportedly caused by an explosive-packed harpoon. However, as the Journal noted, a loophole in IWC's agreement allowed Japan to slaughter hundreds of whales annually under the guise of it serving scientific research. "The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling", Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement.

Burke led moves to prosecute Japan in the International Court of Justice and as Australia's shadow minister for the environment, Burke has been part of a marine conservation coalition that has ensured whaling in the Southern Ocean remains illegal.

Former Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, who now serves as adviser to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's fisheries committee, said he supported a decision to withdraw from the IWC, in an interview with Japan's NHK television. Last season, its scientific research expeditions caught almost 600 whales in the Antarctic and the northwest Pacific.

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. Its aged whaling mothership is in need of a costly replacement or refit.

While likely to upset Japanese trade and security partners such as Australia and New Zealand, the decision on whaling might please some voters, who have been irked by foreign criticism of the country's hunting practices. That works out to 35 grams per person per year, according to a whale meat shop owner Koichi Matsumoto.

"We ate whale meat in the old days", a shopper told the news service, "but there are lots of other things to eat now".

"But if we don't explain internationally that whales are increasing. people won't understand", she added.

The manner in which the government has chose to restart commercial whale hunts also raises some questions.

"It could persist as a small-scale activity".


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