While whales have been hunted in Japan for centuries, their consumption escalated after the Second World War, when meat was rare. A ban instigated by the International Whaling Commission in 1986 put an end to this practice. In December, however, Japan announced that it would officially resume commercial whaling starting July 2019. The announcement means Japan will be able to freely hunt species that are currently protected under the IWC.
Whaling is conducted in order to extract blubber, which is processed to make oil and meat, popular in Japanese traditional cuisine. Japanese whaling began in the 1890s when Japan began to participate in the modern whaling industry. Despite the 1986 ban, Japan has still managed to carry out whaling, allegedly under a ‘scientific research program’. Data from the BBC suggests thousands of whales have been killed in Japanese waters since the ban, supposedly for scientific purposes.
Government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, has stated that commercial whaling is to be carried out only in Japanese territorial waters and economic commercial zones; further, Japan will also be leaving the IWC. While the country has tried to come to a settlement with the IWC on whaling laws, this has proved unsuccessful. Solutions for Japan have also been speculated to include starting up its own international organization, that, with enough signatories, would coexist with other groups of pro-whaling nations, such as the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (Nammco). The announcement has drawn heavy international criticism, notably from Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, and Environment Minister Melissa Price who were both “extremely disappointed” with Japan’s decision.