FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil (Kyodo) -- The International Whaling Commission voted down Friday a Japanese proposal to resume commercial whaling, prompting Japan to hint at possibly withdrawing from the organization.
Tokyo had hoped to resume commercial whaling of relatively abundant species such as minke whales, but anti-whaling countries including Australia and New Zealand opposed the motion.
Twenty-seven countries supported Japan's proposal on the final day of the five-day annual meeting in Florianopolis, Brazil, while 41 voted against it.
Masaaki Taniai, vice minister for Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told the meeting after the vote that Tokyo had no choice but to "examine all possible options."
Japan's pullout would spark criticism from anti-whaling members for taking lightly international rules, but Japan is also under pressure from local fishermen to restart commercial whaling.
As a Japanese proposal in 2014 to resume commercial whaling was also rejected, this time Tokyo called for easing the IWC decision-making rules.
It did so in part to make the overall package appealing to anti-whaling members by making it easier to establish whale sanctuaries where whaling is banned.
Currently a three-fourths majority of IWC members is needed to set a catch quota or establish a sanctuary. The Japanese proposal would have lowered the hurdle to a simple majority.
While Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a moratorium adopted by the IWC in 1982, it has hunted whales since 1987 for what it calls scientific research purposes.
Japan also suggested in 2007 that it might withdraw from the IWC, protesting the ban on commercial whaling, but later was persuaded by the United States and other countries to remain in the organization.