Japan to press for resumption of annual whale hunt

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes: "Japan says it will redesign its scientific whaling programme"

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said Japan will step up efforts to resume its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic.

"I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research," Mr Abe said.

In March, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the whaling programme was not for scientific research as Japan had claimed.

Australia, backed by New Zealand, brought the case against Japan in 2010.

Japan had stopped the hunt in the Antarctic after the ruling but vessels have carried on hunting Minke whales along Japan's northern coast. Japan says these are also for research purposes.

How Mr Abe intends to get around the international court ruling concerning the hunt in the Antarctic remains unclear, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Tokyo.

Referring to the respect given to whales by those in towns where whaling takes place, Mr Abe said it was "regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood".

Japanese Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (2nd R), during an event to promote whale meat On Monday Japanese Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (centre) held an event promoting whale meat
Whaling 'in disguise'

The ICJ had said that Japan had killed around 3,600 Minke whales since 2005 under its Antarctic whaling programme, known as JARPA II.

While JARPA II could broadly be characterised as "scientific research", the scientific output from the programme was limited, and Japan had not sufficiently justified the whaling quotas it had set, the ICJ said.

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Legal routes to whaling

  • Objection - A country formally objects to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium, declaring itself exempt. Example: Norway
  • Scientific - A nation issues unilateral "scientific permits"; any IWC member can do this. Example: Japan
  • Indigenous (aka Aboriginal subsistence) - IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food. Example: Alaskan Inupiat

Guide to the Great Whales

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During the court case, Australia argued that Japan's programme was commercial whaling in disguise, but Tokyo said the suit was an attempt to impose Australia's cultural norms on Japan.

Japan is a signatory to a 1986 moratorium on whaling, but had continued whaling under provisions that allowed for scientific research.

Norway and Iceland rejected the provision and continued commercial whaling.

The moratorium also excludes subsistence whaling among indigenous groups, although catch limits are set.

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