Japan Fisherman Catch First Whales As Commercial Hunts Resume After 30 Years

Japan Fisherman Catch First Whales As Commercial Hunts Resume After 30 Years”

Shigeto Hase, who is the head of the agency in Japan, told The BBC that the return of commercial whaling ensures the tradition can live on.

Fleets that left from the city of Kushiro in Hokkaido, and from the port in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi prefecture, were celebrated at local ceremonies after Japan withdrew from the International Whaling Commission, the Asahi Shimbun reported. The IWC has gradually pivoted to focus more on conservation and other threats to whales since then, but one of its founding goals was to support the whaling industry and the people it employed.

Whaling boats embarked on their first commercial hunts since 1988, when Japan switched to so-called research whaling, but will stay within the country's exclusive economic waters.

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.

Two other whaling vessels left Shimonoseki in southeastern Japan on Monday morning.

"Japan is quitting high-seas whaling. that is a huge step towards the end of killing whales for their meat and other products", said Patrick Ramage, director of marine conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Whaling ships set sail Monday on the first commercial hunts in decades, as Japan brushed aside global outrage over its decision to resume what conservationists say is a cruel and outdated practice.

The IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling has broadly been a success - whale populations have increased where whaling was the primary threat.

From 1985 to 2017, Japanese vessels caught and killed almost 17,000 whales, whose meat often ended up for sale in stores and restaurants after any research had concluded.

The number of 383 is significantly lower than last year's catch of 637 conducted under the name of research whaling. Even whaling supporters say building demand will take time.

A 2017 survey by the Japan Whaling Association showed about 64% of respondents in ages ranging from their teens to their fifties said they have eaten whale meat but majority said they have not eaten it for more than five years.

A maximum of 225 whales may be caught by the end of the year, so the current stock should not be endangered as the Japanese Fisheries Authority announced.

Whale meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years in Japan when the country was desperately poor.

"Whale meat is a traditional food in Japan and I would like many people to try and develop taste for it, especially younger people".

"Yet during a year where Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thurnberg, and school children worldwide are challenging our leaders to tackle environmental decline, Japan is sending its whaling ships back to sea, within days of hosting the G20 Summit", Dominic Dyer, Senior Policy Advisor of animal-rights group Born Free Foundation, said.

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This week, however, Iceland said they would skip the summer whaling season due to financial concerns, including the difficulties of selling the meat on the Japanese market.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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