An international conservation committee ruled on Tuesday that Japan’s domestic commercial distribution of meat from sei whales caught for scientific purposes violates the so-called Washington convention and advised the country to take corrective steps.

The pact, formally called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, lists sei whales as one of the most endangered species and prohibits their commercial trade, although the treaty allows catches for scientific purposes.

Japan has said it has been catching the whales to study their population and ecology. After the study, the meat of the sampled whales has been sold to the market to raise funds for further research.

During the committee meeting in the southern Russian city of Sochi, representatives from many countries, mostly anti-whaling nations, said the meat sales should be regarded as commercial trade.

After the session, a Japanese government source said it was regrettable that the country’s stance of putting emphasis on the importance of whaling for research purposes was not understood.

“But now that the decision and the advisory have been made, we’ll take corrective measures accordingly,” the source said.

Japan agreed not to hunt sei whales or issue certificates necessary to bring captured sei whales into the country until the next standing committee meeting in Sri Lanka in May 2019. At the meeting, corrective measures that Japan was asked to report to the committee’s secretariat by Feb. 1 will be examined.

If the committee judges such measures as insufficient, it will take forcible steps against Japan, sources said.

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