Japan to continue push for resumption of commercial whaling

AP, Kyodo

A senior Japanese whaling negotiator said Thursday that Tokyo will continue to push for a resumption of commercial whaling despite the recent defeat of its proposal on the matter by the International Whaling Commission.

Fisheries negotiator Hideki Moronuki said the IWC should represent both conservation interests and backers of sustainable use of resources, and not act as if it were an anti-whaling group.

IWC imposed a ban on commercial whaling in the 1980s because of dwindling stocks. Japan has instead conducted what it calls research whaling and says stocks have recovered enough that commercial hunts should resume. Its proposal to do so was defeated at an IWC meeting in Brazil on Sept. 14.

Japan has long depended on fisheries resources and made efforts for their sustainable use, Moronuki said. “If we give up on achieving the sustainable use of marine life resources, including whales, Japan will encounter serious difficulties in food security,” he said at a news conference in Tokyo.

Japan’s past attempts to resume commercial whaling of relatively abundant whales, such as minke, have always been stymied by anti-whaling members, such as Australia and New Zealand.

Attempts to compromise over the last 30 years have “all failed,” said Moronuki, due to the “inflexible attitude of anti-whale countries.”

Calling the IWC “dysfunctional” for being unable to reconcile opposition over the resumption of commercial whaling, which Japan argues is a “sustainable use of whale resources” and recognized by the IWC rules, Moronuki said “now is the time to change the situation.”

“I think that by changing the decision-making system, there might be a so-called paradigm shift and the mindset of those two groups might be altered. They might start to feel they can coexist in the IWC,” he said. “Therefore we made the IWC reform proposal at the last IWC meeting.”

At this year’s annual meeting in Florianopolis, Brazil, Japan proposed making it easier to establish whale sanctuaries where whaling is banned in an attempt to make an overall proposal appealing to anti-whaling members.

Currently a three-quarters majority of IWC members is needed to set a catch quota or establish a sanctuary. The Japanese proposal would have lowered the hurdle to a simple majority.

Although 27 countries supported it, 41 voted against.

After the vote, Japanese officials said they had no choice but to consider “all options,” hinting at the possibility of leaving the IWC, although Japan has previously made similar warnings without quitting.

Moronuki refused to say whether Japan is seriously considering leaving the organization.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries. It has reduced its catch following international protests and declining demand for whale meat at home.

The nation annually consumes about 5,000 tons of whale meat from its research hunts, Moronuki said. He declined to say whether a country with an aging and shrinking population can develop a sustainable whaling industry if it returns to commercial hunts.

Japan’s Antarctic catch is now capped at 333 whales — about a third of the quota before a 2014 International Court of Justice ruling that said Japanese research whaling wasn’t scientific enough.

Opponents say Japan’s research whaling is a cover for commercial whaling because the whale meat is sold for food.