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"On the other hand, Japan is also recognizing that there is no fully legal path to high-seas commercial whaling, nor was there sufficient demand to make it economically viable".

TOKYO-Japan announced on December 26 that it is leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to resume hunting the animals for commercial use but said it will no longer go to the Antarctic for its much-criticized annual killings of hundreds of whales.

Japan says it's leaving an anti-whaling worldwide organization to resume commercial hunts for the animals for the first time in three decades.

"By leaving the International Whaling Commission but continuing to kill whales commercially, Japan now becomes a pirate whaling nation killing these ocean leviathans completely outside the bounds of international law", said Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International.

In going rogue, Japan is yielding up its southern whaling claims, but is also signaling its intention to get back in the boat and restart its commercial whaling program.

In September, Japan asked permission to hunt Antarctic minke whales, common minke whales, Bryde's whales and sei whales, citing IWC population estimates in the tens of thousands for three of the species and of more than 500,000 for the Antarctic minke.

In Japan, reports about the expected move were met with a mixed reaction.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that member countries should "work through the appropriate worldwide organizations" for the conservation, management and study of cetaceans. "Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales".

A whaling ship leaves the port of Ayukawa escorted by Japanese coastguards for a hunting campaign
A whaling ship leaves the port of Ayukawa escorted by Japanese coastguards for a hunting campaign

"At the IWC general meeting in September this year, it became evident once again that those supporting the sustainable use of whale stocks and those supporting protection can not co-exist, leading us to this conclusion". Sam Annesley, the executive director of Greenpeace Japan, condemned the government's decision.

"The declaration today is out of step with the global community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures", said Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan.

The IWC, established in 1946 to conserve and manage the world's whale and cetacean population, introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986. Critics say they doubt commercial whaling can be a sustainable industry because younger Japanese may not view the animals as food.

Much of the meat ends up on store shelves, even though most Japanese no longer eat it. Whale consumption accounted for 0.1 percent of all Japanese meat consumption, according to the Asahi newspaper. As of 2013, the industry employed fewer than 1,000 people, and in recent years it has been dependent on government subsidies. Japan now hunts about 600 whales annually in the Antarctic and the Northern Pacific. "Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called "scientific" whaling".

"We hope the resumption of commercial whaling will lead to the economic revitalization of (whaling) communities", Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa told a meeting of his ruling party's whaling committee.

From 2005 to 2017, Sea Shepherd, an environmentalist group, used its own ships to try to interfere with Japan's whaling in the Antarctic. Japan was the only country with an ambition to return to commercial whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.

Japan will now join Norway and Iceland as rogue outlaw whaling nations in the North Pacific and the North Atlantic.

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