Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling After A 31-Year Break

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Japan has resumed commercial whaling in the country for the first time in more than three decades - despite outrage from activists over the practice. Japan's whalers hope to catch and kill hundreds more whales by the end of the year.

At least one of them came back at the end of the afternoon and its shipping was unloaded on a truck to be cut according to journalists of the AFP.

The fisheries ministry in Japan has set a kill cap for the season at 55 minke, 150 Bryde's and 25 sei whales for a total of 227 animals. According to Reuters, whale makes up about 0.1% of all meat eaten in Japan in a year.

The country has now withdrawn from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which has banned whale hunting, but as Japan is no longer a member, it doesn't have to follow the ban.

It was the first commercial hunt since 1988, when Japan switched to what it called research whaling after commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission.

Takashi Takeuchi, 40-year-old captain of a whaling vessel from Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, told reporters before departing from Kushiro that he "felt uneasy" about the outlook for commercial whaling in Japan, where whale meat consumption is at a fraction of past levels, but hopes "to catch fresh whales and provide them to consumers".

It had dropped to 6,000 tons in 1986, a year before the commercial whaling moratorium imposed by the IWC.

A 2017 survey by the Japan Whaling Affiliation confirmed about 64 per cent of respondents acknowledged they've eaten whale meat, nonetheless most acknowledged they have not had any in 5 years.

Whaling is a small industry in Japan, employing around 300 people.

But it has drastically cut back on its catch in recent years after worldwide protests escalated and whale meat consumption slumped at home.

The country has said that it will hunt whales in nearby waters and within its exclusive economic zone but not in the Antarctic Ocean, where the country had carried out whaling for what it describes as research purposes.

"This is a sad day for whale protection globally", said Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International.

He said commercial whaling in Japanese waters was unlikely to have much of a future given dwindling subsidies and the shrinking market for whale meat.

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 programme gradually succumb to changing times and tastes. From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s whale was the single biggest source of meat in Japan, but since then it has become a niche product.

Vessels left from other ports elsewhere in Japan on Monday, including in Shimonoseki in the west of the country, and whalers and government officials hailed the resumption of the hunts.

Director of marine conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Patrick Ramage, that the trade will soon die out.

"Abandoning its decades-long charade of harpooning whales under the guise of science, it has revealed a bad truth - that these gentle ocean giants are being slaughtered for no legitimate reason at all", Block said.

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