Japan to resume commercial whale hunting next year

Japan announced it will leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June to resume commercial hunts for the first time in more than 30 years, according to The Guardian.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Wednesday morning local time that the country’s commercial whaling would be limited to its territorial and economic waters and would no longer extend to the Antarctic.

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Suga said Japan will inform the IWC of its withdrawal before Jan. 1, meaning its departure from the global organization would not take effect until the end of June.

Japan failed to push through a procedural change at the IWC that would have made it easier for the country to secure the necessary votes to end the commercial whaling ban.

The IWC imposed a ban on commercial whaling in 1986 to protect a shrinking whale population, according to The Guardian. Japan later began what it called research whaling, but now says certain whale populations have adequately increased for it to resume commercial hunting. However, some byproducts from the research hunts were sold on the domestic market, The Guardian reported.

Japan said the IWC ban was supposed to be temporary and that it represents the organization's departure from its original purpose of overseeing the sustainable use of global whale populations.

While whale meat was a popular source of protein in Japan in the 1960s, domestic demand for it has declined. 

Iceland and Norway also allow commercial whaling.