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Japan to withdraw from IWC, will resume commercial whaling, –, Southern Ocean – 13 Jan 2006


Japan has decided to withdraw from international whaling commission from July 9,2019. The Japanese government also decided to stop whale fishing in Southern ocean (including Antarctica).

The decision to withdraw from the IWC followed its latest rejection of Japan’s bid to resume commercial whaling at a September meeting of IWC.

It doesn’t mean japan will stop hunting whales. As the government also announced that it will continue its whaling operations in Japanese waters (within the exclusive economic zone).

The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica is an internationally established whale sanctuary that forbids commercial whaling; Japan exploited a loophole that allowed whaling for research. Now, its departure from the IWC signals an end to whaling in the southern waters.

The battle over whaling has grown more acrimonious since the beginning of the 21st century, principally because Japan has become a more insistent advocate of commercial whaling.

Commercial whaling  has been banned since 1986, when Japan and other members of the International Whaling Commission agreed to a moratorium because many whale species were on the brink of extinction from overhunting.

However, the international agreement allowed Japan to continue hunting whales in the Antarctic for scientific research.

But, in 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled against Japan’s whaling programme, saying Tokyo’s research whaling was merely a fig leaf for commercial whaling.

Although there is a certain degree of nostalgia among Japan’s ageing baby boomers for whale, hardly any Japanese eat the meat nowadays, even at heavily subsidised prices.

According to government data, the country ate more than 233,000 tons of whale meat in 1962, but only 3,000 tons in 2016.

Whaling has also been Japan’s diplomatic scarlet letter, damaging the nation’s international standing while alienating some of its closest allies. No other single government policy generates such international opprobrium and it is puzzling why the government harpoons its own green credentials over a marginal issue that most Japanese have long stopped caring about.


The IWC was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC on 2nd December 1946.

The preamble to the Convention states that its purpose is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry

These measures include catch limits (which may be zero as it the case for commercial whaling) by species and area, designating specified areas as whale sanctuaries, protection of calves and females accompanied by calves, and restrictions on hunting methods.


The 1970s saw the beginning of the global anti-whaling movement. In 1972 the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm adopted a proposal that recommended a ten-year moratorium on commercial whaling to allow whale stocks to recover.

  • The reports of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 1977 and 1981 identified many species of whales as being in danger of extinction.


On 13 September 2018, IWC members gathered in Florianopolis, Brazil, where they discussed and rejected a proposal by Japan to renew commercial whaling. Through the “Florianopolis Declaration”, it was concluded that the purpose of the IWC is the conservation of whales and that they would now safeguard the marine mammals in perpetuity and would allow the recovery of all whale populations to pre-industrial whaling levels.

  • Under this resolution, limited hunts by some indigenous communities are still permitted.

On 26 December 2018, Japan announced that since the IWC failed its duty to promote sustainable hunting, which is one of its stated goals, Japan is withdrawing its membership. Japanese officials also announced they will resume commercial hunting within its territorial waters and its 200-mile exclusive economic zones starting in July 2019, but it will cease whaling activities in the Antarctic Ocean, the northwest Pacific ocean, and the Australian Whale Sanctuary.


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