LONDON — When the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission opened in Alaska last Monday, Japan declared that it planned to kill 50 humpback whales as well as the usual minke and fin whales next year in its “scientific” whale hunt (catch them, count them and sell them as food).

The plan was “highly provocative,” Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said. It was also carefully calculated, as Japan’s real goal was to restart commercial whaling. Japan offered to drop the plan to kill humpbacks if the IWC approved a return to “limited commercial whaling” by four Japanese coastal villages — just four little villages, for now, and strictly limited numbers of whales. But the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling would have been broken.

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