Japan decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume whaling in its coastal waters; this was confirmed by a government spokesman. The commission now has 89 members and was founded in 1946 to protect cetaceans and regulate their hunting globally. In 1986 it banned commercial hunting, although countries such as Norway, Iceland, Russia, Korea and local whalers from several other countries continued their activity, killing around 21,760 whales overall.
Japan remains the main market for whale meat, yet its actual consumption is limited (about 30 grams per person per year, that is between 4,000 and 5,000 tons).
According to Astrid Fuchs, manager of the whale program for the no-profit Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Japan’s move is primarily a political move. A way of declaring that it can use the oceans at will.
By withdrawing from the commission, Japan will no longer be able to take advantage of the IWC exception for hunting for scientific purposes in international waters, so it will have to stop it. The only benefit Japan will gain by withdrawing will be the ability to resume hunting in its waters without any controls. This is not a good news both for whales in Antarctica – where Japan killed up to 300 whales in 2016, of which over 200 were pregnant females – and for cetaceans living in Japanese waters.