BERLIN – Japan may pull out of the International Whaling Commission in response to what it sees as the hijacking of the commission by antiwhaling nations, the chief Japanese delegate to the IWC’s annual meeting suggested Thursday.
Minoru Morimoto made the threat at a news conference after the IWC closed an acrimonious four-day meeting in which Japan lost several key votes for its whaling programs.
Morimoto said Japan will consider whether to review its relationship with the IWC. “We have a number of options,” he said.
Before the IWC wound up the meeting, Morimoto fired a parting shot by telling antiwhaling members that Japan is “withholding” its contributions to the IWC budget.
Japan will make a final decision on whether ultimately to halt the payment “after examining the results of this year’s IWC plenary sessions,” Morimoto said.
Last year, Japan contributed £105,000 (about 18.2 million yen) to the British-based IWC, accounting for 8.6 percent of the commission’s operational funds — the highest among 48 member countries. The United States was the second-largest contributor with £77,000, followed by Norway with £65,000.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei said Friday that Japan will make a decision after its delegates to the Berlin meeting return home.
Kamei said Japan will study various options but declined to say what countermeasures Tokyo may take.
“Japan has been making due contributions” to the IWC, Kamei said. “We need to think about various things. We also want to hear opinions from countries having the same view as us.”
Ahead of the meeting, a fisheries policymaking panel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Japan should freeze its financial contributions to the IWC and consider withdrawing from the organization if antiwhaling resolutions were adopted in Berlin.
On Wednesday, the IWC dealt a torrent of blows to Japan, rejecting a request to expand the hunt for minke whales in coastal waters and set up a new hunting ground for 150 Bryde’s whales in the northwestern Pacific.
The IWC also approved a motion to ban Japan from conducting research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.
Japan’s coastal whaling communities are allowed to catch 50 minke whales a year in coastal waters. This year, Japan sought in vain to triple that quota.
More worrisome to prowhaling nations, the IWC decided Monday to set up a whale conservation committee.
The three votes concerning Japanese whaling Wednesday marked another setback for its plans to push for the resumption of commercial whaling. The IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982.
Japan switched to research whaling in the Antarctic in 1987. The practice has been criticized by the antiwhaling camp as being nothing more than commercial whaling in disguise, as the meat from the hunts ends up in restaurants.
Last year, Japan caught 590 minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales, 50 Sei whales and 10 sperm whales in the name of research.