Japan has announced that the country’s fleet will resume commercial whaling operations on July 2019, in defiance of 1986 global ban. The government’s chief spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said that the hunts will be confined within Japanese territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
The announcement spurred criticisms from conservationists and the international community especially those from the UK and Australia.
The UK’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, said he was “extremely disappointed” by Japan’s move and shared his sentiments on Twitter:
“The UK is strongly opposed to commercial whaling and will continue to fight for the protection and welfare of these majestic mammals.”
Greenpeace Japan Executive Director, Sam Annesley, countered Japan’s claims that the whale stocks have recovered and accused Japan of purposely timing the announcement at the end of the year to avoid backlash.
“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.
“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.
“Most whale populations have not yet recovered, including larger whales such as blue whales, fin whales and sei whales.”
In a joint statement on Wednesday, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and the environment minister, Melissa Price, said the Australian government was “extremely disappointed” that Japan was withdrawing from the commission and resuming commercial whaling.
“The International Whaling Commission plays a crucial role in international cooperation on whale conservation,” they said.
“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.