Japan withdraws from International Whaling Commission

Japan will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a government spokesman confirmed on Wednesday. The move sets the stage for Japan to resume commercial whaling activities next year.

"Commercial whaling to be resumed from July next year will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. We will not hunt in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere," top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Suga said Japan would communicate its decision to the IWC by the end of the year. As such, the withdrawal will come into effect by June 30, 2019.

The Japanese government had tried to persuade the IWC to allow its commercial whaling, but the international organization rejected the bid in September. As a result, it was expected that Tokyo would end its membership with the IWC.

With its IWC exit, Japan now joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying the organization's ban on commercial whale hunting.

Read more: What can stop Japan's 'gruesome' whale hunting program?

A controversial practice

Despite the 1986 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling to protect whale populations from extinction, Japan nevertheless kills an estimated 450 whales annually.

Japan has deflected international criticism and staunchly defended commercial whale hunting. Tokyo has long argued that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is a part of its culture.

jcg/aw (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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