Japan's apparent decision to exit the International Whaling Commission, a plan disclosed Thursday by government sources, carries the risk of forfeiting international trust and damaging momentum for conservation — all in exchange for an uncertain outlook on commercial whaling as demand for the mammals' meat wanes.

While the government has considered leaving the international body many times in the past over the longstanding rift between pro- and anti-whaling members, the Foreign Ministry had stressed the importance of international cooperation and called for reforming the IWC from within.

But that position apparently changed when the IWC voted down the country's proposal to resume commercial whaling by 41 to 27 at an annual meeting in Brazil in September, prompting Tokyo to issue a veiled threat of a pullout.