Japanese whaling towns welcome IWC withdrawal but concerns remain over protests

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Japan confirmed on Wednesday that it will quit the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling next year.

Amy Laurenson, the acting New Zealand Whaling Commissioner said under the worldwide law of an exclusive economic zone, Japan could hunt for whales in an area that extends up to 200 nautical miles of the country.

The IWC, which imposed a commercial moratorium in the 1980s due to a dwindling whale population, rejected Tokyo's request to resume commercial whaling in September.

"We have chose to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year", Yoshihide Suga, top spokesperson for the Japanese government, told reporters.

The Japanese government had tried to persuade the IWC to allow its commercial whaling, but the worldwide organization rejected the bid in September.

Japan will resume commercial whale-hunting next year for the first time since 1988, joining Iceland and Norway in defying a ban on the practice.

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Japan began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after the global whaling moratorium began.

The Japanese government, which began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after the worldwide whaling moratorium was introduced, has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered - six of the world's 13 "great whale species" are classified as endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Abe's own electoral district includes Shimonoseki, a whaling port in western Japan.

"The next great thing about it is that if they leave the IWC, that means the Atlantic whale sanctuary will then go ahead because they've been voting against that for years".

"From July 2019, after the withdrawal comes into effect on June 30, Japan will conduct commercial whaling within Japan's territorial sea and its exclusive economic zone, and will cease the take of whales in the Antarctic Ocean/the Southern Hemisphere", Suga said in a statement.

But Japan will not be able to continue the so-called scientific research hunts in the Antarctic that it has been exceptionally allowed as an IWC member under the Antarctic Treaty.

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"With this move the Japanese government is officially turning its back on global cooperation around conservation measures, and one of the greatest conservation agreements ever made - the ban on commercial whaling", said Astrid Fuchs of Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).

Japan has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture.

But the bid failed, with strong opposition from anti-whaling nations - led by Australia, the European Union and the US.

The move to resume commercial whaling drew criticism from conservation groups and governments.

"It's clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of year, away from the spotlight of global media, but the world sees this for what it is", Greenpeace Japan said in a statement.

It makes no secret of the fact that meat from the expeditions ends up on dinner tables, and argues that stocks of certain whales are now sufficient to allow commercial hunts to resume.

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