National

Japan's commercial whaling to start in July for the first time in 31 years

Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

A local fisheries association in western Japan will resume commercial whaling from July 1 for the first time in 31 years, association sources have said.

The move comes after Japan announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in December.

An association ship in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, known for its whaling and dolphin hunts, will be joined by four others from private companies. It plans to hunt minke whales in nearby waters for about a week, the sources said Thursday.

A convoy of five whaling ships, including the No. 7 Katsu Maru, which belongs to the Taiji cooperative, will depart on July 1 from Kushiro Port in Hokkaido or Hachinohe Port in Aomori Prefecture, where there are facilities for processing whales, the sources said.

The Katsu Maru will then leave the fleet and continue hunting Baird’s beaked whales and pilot whales in waters off Chiba Prefecture, where whales are known to be abundant, and other areas until late August. From September to October, the five ships will reconvene to hunt in waters off Kushiro. It is yet to be decided how many whales will be hunted.

Yoshifumi Kai, head of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association and a member of the Taiji cooperative, expressed joy, saying, “We’ll be able to catch fatty, tasty whales.”

Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a moratorium adopted in 1982 by the IWC. Since 1987, it has hunted whales for what it claims is research, a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling. The association’s ship took part in this research. Under the pretext of scientific research, the nation caught 333 whales in the Antarctic Ocean as planned in the latest hunt that ended last year.

Having peaked in 1962 at 230,000 tons, annual consumption of whale meat has since trended steadily downward, with an average of 5,000 to 6,000 tons consumed yearly today, according to fishery ministry official Hideki Moronuki.

Following its withdrawal from the IWC, Japan will hunt whales within its exclusive economic zone, but not in the Antarctic Ocean, where it has carried out the so-called scientific whaling.

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