Japan poised to resume commercial whaling despite protests

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Whale meat was an affordable source of protein during the lean times after World War II, with consumption peaking at 223,000 tons in 1962.

As with other types of whales, including orca, sub-populations of the same species can develop highly distinct behaviour patterns, which has led some biologists to describe these differences as "cultural".

Last September, the IWC's annual meeting rejected Japan's latest proposal to resume commercial whaling.

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. "People have hunted whales for more than 400 years in my home town". Conservationists say the practice is cruel and outdated.

The research whaling program lost money for years - 1.6 billion yen ($15 million) in the last year alone. After years of disputes, the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in December that it meant to leave the organisation, claiming that it was not fulfilling its mandate to find a balance between preserving the whale population but also allowing a sustainable whaling industry.

In 1982, the IWC banned commercial whaling, which went into effect globally in 1986. The quota, to be set annually, is less than the 330 whales Japan harvested in the Antarctic until recently. The eight vessels will be hunting for minke whales, Bryde's whales, and sei whales. Altogether, they will catch 52 minkes, 150 Bryde's and 25 sei whales through December 31.

Whale meat caught further off the coast will be frozen and distributed for wider consumption. He also added that he does not believe that coastal whaling will survive because of a decrease in subsidies and consumer demand.

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The Japanese government, which plans to subsidize the whaling sector as it rebuilds over the next several years, said its quota is less than 1% of the estimated abundance of the target stock. The association is hopeful that whale meat will once again be a part of the Japanese diet. 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. Whale makes up about 0.1% of all meat eaten in a year, with fewer than 300 people directly linked to the industry.

But even if Japan does defy the criticism and stick with whaling, there's a good chance the contentious issue will gradually die down by itself.

Director of marine conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Patrick Ramage, that the trade will soon die out.

"It's sure that the govt.is searching for to sneak on this announcement at the terminate of year far from the highlight of global media, nonetheless the enviornment sees this for what it's miles", talked about Sam Annesley, govt director at Greenpeace Japan at the time, calling the switch "out of step with the worldwide community".

But the Humane Society International ripped into the decision to allow commercial whaling.

Under the research hunts, catches peaked at 1,200 whales, but that number has seen a sharp decline in recent years after worldwide protests escalated and whale meat consumption slumped at home.

Here's a look at some key dates related to Japanese whaling.

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