Japan Leaves IWC to Resume Commercial Whaling

Departure from the International Whaling Commission breaks over 30-year ban

WASHINGTON - Japan today resumed commercial whaling for the first time in over 30 years, after the nation’s withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The IWC banned commercial whaling in 1982.

Following is a statement from Taryn Kiekow Heimer, Deputy Director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

“Japan is now a rogue whaling nation.

“Japan has tried unsuccessfully for years to overturn the IWC’s ban on commercial whaling. Instead of accepting the will of the world to protect whales, Japan has chosen to walk away. This is a bad day for the rule of international law, a bad day for conservation and a bad day for whales. Whales were driven to the brink of extinction due to of decades of merciless commercial whaling. Some whales are just now starting to recover. Yet Japan just issued itself a unilateral license to kill.”


After failing to reach an agreement to resume commercial whaling at the IWC meeting last year in Brazil, Japan announced its intention withdraw from the global body entirely. The withdrawal became official on June 30th. Japan announced it would conduct commercial whaling within its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) starting July 1st but has not announced catch quotas.

Faced with collapsing whale stocks due to decades of overexploitation, the IWC agreed to a moratorium on commercial whaling. The moratorium has saved several species from extinction.

Japan, Norway, and Iceland have continued to hunt whales. Japan has justified its annual whale hunt in Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in the name of “scientific whaling” exploiting a loophole to kill over 17,000 whales. “Scientific whaling” has been condemned by both the IWC and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – which ruled in 2014 that Japan's “scientific research” program was illegal. Japan responded by denouncing the ICJ's jurisdiction (claiming the UN World Court doesn't have jurisdiction over global ocean resources) and revamping its scientific whaling program.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​

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