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Japan

Even Japanese whalers are unhappy with the country’s plans to resume commercial hunts

  • The whaling industry has opposed the move to end ‘scientific’ hunts off the coast of Antarctica in favour of commercial whaling in Japanese waters
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 8:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 8:17pm

Count Japan’s own whalers as among those unhappy with the government’s plan to resume commercial hunts - because they will not be in the bountiful whaling grounds around Antarctica.

The revelation came in a briefing from a Japanese foreign ministry official in Tokyo on Thursday, a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government drew international criticism with its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial hunts in its exclusive economic zone.

The move to end “scientific” hunts near Antarctica was opposed by the local whaling industry, the foreign ministry official said, declining to be identified according to ministry policy. The official called the decision to end hunts in the Southern Ocean – where Japanese whalers have sometimes clashed with environmental activists – a “painful” one.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters was among the officials to object to the move on Wednesday, calling whaling an “outdated and unnecessary practice.” Still, both New Zealand and Australia welcomed the end to the Southern Ocean hunting.

Japan says it kills about 600 whales a year and the industry employs fewer than 300 people. Yet the issue has an outsize presence in the national psyche, which the foreign ministry official compared to matters like gun control and abortion in the US.

Norway and Iceland – both members of the whaling commission – also hunt commercially.

Japan plans to use a method laid out by the commission to calculate a sustainable harvest. The first hunt is set to take place in July.