Japan withdraws from the treaty that bans hunting whales

Jan 04, 2019

WHEN WORD leaked that Japan was planning to pull out of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) this year in order to kill whales at will, the reaction was swift and fierce. Australia said it was “extremely disappointed”. Others likened Japan to a rogue state. So much for its claims to uphold international institutions and act as model global citizen. The move, critics railed, was like America pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change.

Yet all is not what it seems. For a start, even as Japan leaves the IWC, it has forsworn whaling in the Southern Ocean (the waters surrounding Antarctica). Nearly every austral summer since the IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, Japan has sent the Nisshin Maru and other vessels there to catch whales for “research” (after which the meat ends up in restaurants). The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in turn, tries to sabotage the hunt. Now,...

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