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Home > World > Japan to End Whaling

Japan to End Whaling

8 MINUTES AGO BREAKING NOW
Tokyo (Kyodo) - The top spokesperson for the Japanese government announced that Japan will no longer hunt and kill whales for research.

"Effective immediately, Japan will no longer conduct scientific research on whale populations which require capture and dissection," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Makoto Inoue, speaking at a press conference in Tokyo. "The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has revoked all permits for whaling research."

Asked about the motivation behind the sudden announcement, Inoue said, "It cannot be denied that that whaling severely and unnecessarily damages the image of Japan in the international community, due to the strong sentiment against whaling in many countries," speaking through an interpreter. "There is no longer any economic need for Japan to obtain protein from the whales, so it would be irrational and pointless to continue catching whales."

Inoue added that government budget restraints do not justify significant expenditures for whale research.

Japan has been killing about 1,000 fin and minke whales each year under scientific research programs sanctioned by the International Whaling Commission, selling the meat as food on the domestic market.

Under the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, countries are allowed to issue permits to kill whales for scientific "lethal research," a loophole exploited by Japan for large-scale whaling operations. Japan had been maintaining that the program was needed to estimate whale populations and study their breeding and feeding habits.

A staunch pro-whaling advocate, Japan had come close to overturning a moratorium by the IWC on commercial whaling at the IWC's annual 2010 meeting in Morocco.

Since the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan has figured prominently in the annual battle between pro- and anti-whaling nations at the IWC convention meeting every year. While repeatedly denying anti-whaling countries' accusations that it offers aid to commission members in return for pro-whaling votes, Japan had been openly recruiting supporters to the commission, one recent example being the tiny land-locked nation of Laos.

Calls to Japan's whaling body, the Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo, were answered by an official who declined to comment, and calls to Kyodo Senpaku, the fishing company which operates the whalers, were answered by an unidentified man who shouted harshly in Japanese before hanging up.

It is unknown what political considerations prompted this sudden and unexpected announcement. Japanese public opinion is largely indifferent towards or in support of whaling.

Anti-whaling activists appeared stunned. "Well, it's certainly good news," said Annika Schroer of Greenpeace.

A spokesperson for anti-whaling organization Sea Shepherd, best-known for colliding protest boats against whaling vessels, cautiously welcomed the announcement. "This is what we've been working for," said Colin Shelby, a board member of the NGO. "But we will be watching closely to make sure this isn't some kind of ploy."

"And we will need to keep up the pressure against Iceland," he added.

There was no immediate comment from the foreign ministries of Australia and New Zealand. Australia and New Zealand had been leading the anti-whaling campaign against Japan, contributing government resources to document Japanese whaling activities. In 2010, Australia initiated a case against Japan with International Court of Justice in the Hague in regard to Japan's whaling activities.

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