Japan Leaving IWC To Continue Whaling

Japan Leaving IWC To Continue Whaling

In December, Japan announced it would be leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial whaling in the country’s territorial waters. The announcement has been met with criticism, yet some anticipate a silver lining.

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed a moratorium on commercial whaling; however, Japan has continued to hunt whales in the southern hemisphere through a ‘scientific research’ loophole for over three decades. At last year’s 67th IWC conference, most member nations asserted that whaling is unnecessary for scientific research.

Following Japan’s announcement, Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, outlined why Japan’s departure from the IWC and openly hunting whales starting in July 2019 could potentially yield some positive outcomes. Watson notes that nations previously influenced, and at times bribed, by Japan will no longer be compelled to vote against whales’ interests at IWC meetings. Watson also suggests that the focus of the IWC can now be placed on conservation - not whaling - since Japan was the primary hindrance to these efforts, perhaps leading the way for sanctuaries and other protective measures in the future.

Environmental law professor, Al Gillespie, is not as optimistic. He worries that Japan’s decision will encourage other countries to “walk away, not just from the whaling debate, from any other environmental issues that they don’t agree with.” Gillespie suggests that Japan is following Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement and is concerned that the IWC could collapse, eliminating international agreements to protect whales.

Regardless of whether Japan participates with the IWC, Japan’s practice of whaling is viewed as morally and ethically wrong by the majority of the world. Just as Japan will continue whaling, In Defense of Animals will continue to advocate for and protect the great whales.

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