Japan to Announce Withdrawal from International Whaling Commission on Wednesday

A minke whale caught in research whaling is unloaded in Ishinomaki Miyagi Prefecture

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 announced on December 26 that it will leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at the end of June and resume commercial whaling in July for the first time in about 30 years.

Japan began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after the worldwide whaling moratorium began.

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

Japan's commercial whaling will be limited to its own territorial waters and its exclusive economic zone, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who made the announcement at a news conference after a cabinet decision on Tuesday. "We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere", Suga added.

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"As there may be global criticism, I expect (the government) to try to gain the understanding of anti-whaling nations", he said, adding he hopes whaling for commercial use will be carried out under appropriate resource management in a similar manner to when the country's so-called research whaling was conducted.

"Regrettably, we have reached a decision that it is impossible in the IWC to seek the coexistence of states with different views", he said.

Mr Suga said the IWC has been overlooked by conservationists and Japan was frustrated over its attempts to manage whale capitals even though the IWC has a treaty mandate for both whale conservation and development of the whaling industry.

But consumption has declined significantly in recent decades, with much of the population saying they rarely or never eat whale meat.

Suga said Japan would officially inform the IWC of its decision by the end of the year, which will mean the withdrawal comes into effect by June 30.

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The Japanese government has confirmed it will restart commercial whaling in July when it exits the IWC.

But the bid failed, with strong opposition from anti-whaling nations - led by Australia, the European Union and the US. As a result, it was expected that Tokyo would end its membership with the IWC.

Ahead of the announcement, activist groups warned Japan against the withdrawal.

The IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986, but some countries including Japan, Norway and Iceland have exploited a provision in the 1946 Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that allows whales to be killed for scientific purposes.

"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.

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Officials have been reacting to the news of Japan's withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), with the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade working on understanding the implications.

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