Japan pulls out of IWC, turns their back on global whale conservation

Dec. 26, 2018 – The Japanese Government has pulled out of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Reports indicate that Japan will also withdraw from whaling in the Antarctic, which would be a welcome and long overdue end to Southern Ocean whaling, but reports also suggest Japan would start commercial whaling in their own waters.

If reports are correct and Japan ceases Southern Ocean whaling, with the exception of a one year pause in 2014 after Japan lost the whaling case in the International Court of Justice, this would mean there would be no whaling in our Southern Oceans for the first time since the second world war.

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Australians can celebrate the end of whaling in our Southern Oceans, however the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is alarmed at the consequences of a new chapter of commercial whaling by Japan in their waters and concerned for the future of the IWC.

AMCS CEO Darren Kindleysides said, “If Japan leaving the IWC spells the end of their Southern Ocean whaling that would be a win for our whales. Australians have been fighting for decades to get the whalers out of the Antarctic. However, it would be a bittersweet victory if it comes with unchecked commercial whaling by Japan in their own waters, and their leaving could damage the future of the IWC itself.”

The Japanese whaling fleet is currently in the Southern Ocean whaling for another season of so-called ‘scientific whaling’, aiming to kill 333 Antarctic minke whales. That season would normally be expected to end in February or March.

“With the Japanese whaling fleet hunting whales in our Southern Ocean, the Australian Government must demand they bring their fleet home immediately and take legal action if they don’t.”

Japan leaves the IWC after years attempting to persuade the international body into allowing them to resume commercial whaling. In September, the IWC rejected Japan’s latest outrageous attempt to end the global ban on commercial whaling at the 67th meeting of the IWC in Brazil. In response, the government of Japan threatened to leave the IWC, with Japan saying the country would now conduct a ‘fundamental reassessment of its membership of the IWC’.  Japan has today made good on that threat.

“Japan has failed to force the International Whaling Commission into allowing a return to the cruel and outdated industrial whaling of the past,” continued Kindleysides.

“Japan has failed to persuade the international courts to allow them to kill whales under the pretence of scientific research.”

“So now Japan has turned their back on global efforts to manage whaling and conserve whales in order to kill whales outside international control.”

“Leaving the IWC sets a very dangerous precedent for other international treaties and conventions. Not satisfied with harpooning whales, Japan is threatening to harpoon the future of the IWC.”

“The IWC has become the driving force for global whale conservation efforts in the 21st century. If Japan is serious about the future of the world’s whales, they would not be leaving the IWC.”

“Whales face a greater number of threats today that at any stage in their past. Climate change, entanglement in fishing nets, plastic pollution, underwater noise and ship strikes threaten our ocean giants. Our whales need countries to work together, not go it alone.”

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is the voice for Australia’s ocean wildlife. We are an independent charity, staffed by a committed group of professional and passionate scientists, educators and advocates who have defended Australia’s oceans for 50 years. www.amcs.org.au