The Japanese government announced Wednesday their withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which put a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 after several species of whales were nearly driven to extinction. Greenpeace immediately condemned the Japanese government’s decision to withdraw from the IWC and officially resume commercial whaling in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
As an IWC member since 1951, Japan had recently proposed establishing a council to determine sustainable catch limits for whaling, but the proposal was voted down in September at an IWC summit in Brazil. On Wednesday, the Japanese government released an official statement declaring their withdrawal from the IWC and return to commercial whaling next July.
In response, Sam Annesley, Executive Director at Greenpeace Japan, released the following statement: “It’s clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of year away from the spotlight of international media, but the world sees this for what it is. The declaration today is out of step with the international community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures. The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling.
“As a result of modern fleet technology, overfishing in both Japanese coastal waters and high seas areas has led to the depletion of many whale species. Most whale populations have not yet been recovered, including larger whales such as blue whales, fin whales and sei whales.
“The world’s oceans face multiple threats such as acidification and plastic pollution, in addition to overfishing. As a country surrounded by oceans where people’s lives have been heavily reliant on marine resources, it is essential for Japan to work towards healthy oceans. Japan’s government has so far failed to resolve these problems.
“As the chair of the G20 in 2019, the Japanese government needs to recommit to the IWC and prioritise new measures for marine conservation.”
In a joint statement, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Environment Minister Melissa Price wrote, “The Australian Government is extremely disappointed that Japan has announced that it will withdraw from the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and its decision-making body, the International Whaling Commission, and resume commercial whaling.
“The International Whaling Commission plays a crucial role in international cooperation on whale conservation. The Commission is the pre-eminent global body responsible for the conservation and management of whales and leads international efforts to tackle the growing range of threats to whales globally, including by-catch, ship strikes, entanglement, noise, and whaling.
“Their decision to withdraw is regrettable and Australia urges Japan to return to the Convention and Commission as a matter of priority.”
The Australian government also “remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling” that has allowed Japan to catch hundreds of whales every year for scientific studies before selling the meat at markets to Japanese consumers.