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Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announces Japan's withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission during a press conference at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, on Dec. 26, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The government formally announced on Dec. 26 that Japan will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) with the aim of resuming commercial whaling.

Japan is poised to resume full-scale commercial whaling in Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in July. It is extremely rare for Japan to pull out of an international organization.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a decision to leave the IWC, which manages whale resources, on Dec. 25, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the announcement.

The IWC decided in 1982 to temporarily suspend commercial whaling. Japan has asked for the moratorium to be lifted, but Tokyo's plea has been rejected by the international organization due to stiff opposition from anti-whaling countries.

In this November 2017 file photo, family members bid farewell to a whaling vessel departing from the port of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, for a voyage to the Antarctic Ocean. (Mainichi/Rika Uemura)

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to suspend its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.

Japan will not be able to continue research whaling from June 2019, because countries that do so are required by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling to join the IWC.

The Antarctic Ocean has been the main whaling area for Japan since before World War II, because 70 percent of large cetaceans are believed to feed in the area.

(Japanese original by Akiko Kato, Business News Department)

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