Japan to commercially hunt 227 whales this year

G20 leaders urged to denounce Japan's 'cruel assault' on whales

G20 leaders urged to denounce Japan's 'cruel assault' on whales

Japan's decision to withdraw from the IWC was slammed by activists and anti-whaling countries, but the resumption of commercial hunts has been welcomed by Japanese whaling communities, and the departure from Kushiro was celebrated with a send-off ceremony.

Japan is an IWC member and therefore was banned from commercial hunts of large whales.

"This is a face saving way out of whaling, the beginning of the end of Japanese whaling", he told a news conference in Tokyo this week.

Three whaling ships left the port of Shimonoseki in western Japan on Monday morning while five smaller vessels left Kushiro on the northern island of Hokkaido.

During this week's G20 summit in Osaka, celebrities like Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and primatologist Jane Goodall all joined the appeal directed at G20 leaders to stop Japan from returning to commercial whaling.

A woman in her 60s had mixed feelings.

"This week, while one part of the Japanese government is proudly facilitating worldwide cooperation by hosting the G20 meeting, another is quietly extricating itself from the obligation for global collaboration on the protection and management of the world's whales", said Kitty Block, president of Humane Society worldwide, in a statement. Commercial whaling will be allowed in waters near near Japan and within the country's exclusive economic zone.

In 1982, the IWC banned commercial whaling, which went into effect globally in 1986.

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Nevertheless, Japan continued its research, gathering data it believed would be useful for determining quotas when it reverted to commercial whaling at a future point. Namely, Japan will only hunt for profit in its own waters, which means it would end its controversial scientific whaling in sensitive locations such as the Antarctic.

From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s whale was the single biggest source of meat in Japan but since become a niche product again.

Is eating whale meat more ethical than commercially farmed pork or chicken?

"Japan's whaling is out of step with the worldwide community, and legal opinion shows it's also out of step with global law".

"Now Australians are looking to our government to step up again to defend whales and, now, to also defend the principles of global law".

This year's quota, including minkes, sei whales and Bryde's whales, was about 220, the Nikkei newspaper said.

While the resumption of commercial whaling is condemned by many conservation groups, others see it as a face-saving way to let the government's embattled and expensive whaling program gradually succumb to changing times and tastes.

Moronuki says the fate of commercial whaling depends on whether whale meat is widely accepted by consumers since it won't be getting as much subsidies as it used to get.

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