Friday, 5 September 2014

Japan set to wade into diplomatic row by bypassing ban on whaling

Japan is expected to spark a fresh round of diplomatic tension after revealing plans to bypass a UN ban on the slaughter of whales in the Antarctic with a new, scaled-down "scientific" programme that limits its catch to minke whales.

Japan was forced to end its hunt in the Antarctic in March after the international court of justice (ICJ) in the Hague challenged Tokyo's contention that its annual pursuit of hundreds of whales in the area was necessary to conduct scientific research.

The country's whaling fleet has sought to catch around 900 minke whales, and a much smaller number of fin and humpback whales, every winter after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986.

The IWC's moratorium allowed meat from the hunts to be sold on the open market in Japan, where consumption of whale meat – once a rare source of protein, in the years after the second world war – has plummeted in recent decades. Environmental campaigners claim the "scientific" programme is a cover for commercial whaling.

Having said they would abide by the UN court's ruling in March, Japanese officials are poised to submit a revised programme to the IWC's scientific committee in November.

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