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Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling

Japan has announced its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and said that it will resume commercial whaling from July 2019. The commercial whaling will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.

Dec 26, 2018 14:49 IST
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Japan on December 26, 2018 announced its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and said that it will resume commercial whaling from July 2019. The withdrawal will come into effect by June 30, 2019.

The announcement comes after Japan failed in a bid earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling. "We have decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year," said a top Japanese government spokesman.

Key Highlights

The withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission means that the Japanese whalers will be able to resume hunting of minke and other whales, which are currently protected by the IWC, in the Japanese coastal waters.

Japan clarified that commercial whaling will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zones and not in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere.

The withdrawal, however, means that Japan will not be able to continue the scientific research hunts in the Antarctic that it has been exceptionally allowed as an IWC member under the Antarctic Treaty.

The withdrawal also means that Japan will join Iceland and Norway in openly defying the IWC's ban on commercial whale hunting.

Japan would officially inform the IWC of its decision by the end of 2018, which will mean the withdrawal, comes into effect by June 30.

  Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling


Background

Japan has repeatedly threatened to pull out of IWC and has been regularly criticised for catching hundreds of whales a year for "scientific research" despite being a signatory to a moratorium on hunting the animals.

Japan argues that whaling is an important part of Japan's traditions and the withdrawal would allow fishermen to pass the country's rich whaling culture onto the next generation. Japan has hunted whales for centuries and the meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years when the country was desperately poor.

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

In September, Japan sought to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling, arguing that stocks of certain species were now sufficient to support renewed hunting. But the bid failed, with strong opposition from anti-whaling nations led by Australia, the European Union and the United States.

About IWC

  Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling

The International Whaling Commission was established in December 1946 to conserve and manage the world's whale and cetacean population and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry".

In 1982 the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling.  Currently, Japan, Russia and a number of other nations oppose this moratorium.

The IWC allows non-zero whaling quotas for aboriginal subsistence and also member nations may issue 'Scientific Permits' to their citizens. Japan has issued such permits since 1986.

Iceland and Norway object to the moratorium and continue to hunt whales commercially without relying on science as an excuse.

The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention, which governs the conduct of whaling throughout the world.

In September 2018, In September 2018, the majority of member nations at the IWC annual symposium in Brazil approved a non-binding resolution stating that commercial whaling was no longer a valid economic activity, or needed for scientific research.

The IWC members agreed to safeguard the marine mammals in perpetuity and allow the recovery of all whale populations to pre-industrial whaling levels.

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