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New whaling body and rules should be created under Japan's leadership, Tokyo IWC envoy says

JIJI

Japan’s envoy to the International Whaling Commission has called for new whaling rules to be created under the country’s leadership following Tokyo’s decision late last year to leave the international body and resume commercial whaling.

The exit from the IWC, slated for June, will be “a passing point,” Joji Morishita, a professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, said in a recent interview.

“We need to create a forum for discussions to establish a consensus that whales are a (food) resource,” said Morishita, who has been engaged in negotiations at the IWC for about two decades as the Japanese government’s representative.

He criticized whaling opponents in the West, including the United States, for “denying food diversity and forcing their own environmental standards on developing countries and others.” He said that such an approach is problematic in light of food security.

“Japan, whose food self-sufficiency rate is low, should take the initiative to establish a theory that can compete with the Westerners’ arguments,” Morishita said.

The time is “riper than before” to set up an alternative international body to the IWC, he said, adding that this could possibly happen during work to draw up new whaling rules.

On the reason for Japan’s decision to leave the IWC, Morishita said: “We’ve continued to offer every possible compromise for the restart of commercial whaling. But anti-whaling countries haven’t accepted any form of whaling at all, preventing negotiations between us. If this situation continues, Japan’s domestic whaling industry would cease to exist.”

He said Japan has carefully prepared to exit the IWC, including explaining its views to related countries.

“It wasn’t an emotional decision,” he said.

Japan is set to resume commercial whaling in July after the departure becomes official.

Morishita said commercial whaling is expected to be profitable, thanks to greater operational efficiency and lower fuel costs than for the so-called research whaling that Japan has conducted since 1987, after the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982.

He downplayed suggestions that demand for whale meat in Japan is unlikely to pick up at a time when personal consumption is slumping. Whale meat “can be sold as a local specialty,” he said. “Stable supplies will lead to a rise in demand.”