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Japan whalers to restart commercial hunts in July

IWC exit prompts fishery group's return after three decades away

A woman walks by sculptures of whales, the symbol of Taiji. The Wakayama Prefecture town is known as the cradle of Japanese whaling culture.   © AP

OSAKA -- The birthplace of traditional Japanese whaling will officially get back into commercial hunting for the first time in about 30 years this July, just after the country withdraws from the International Whaling Commission.

The fishery group of the greater Osaka town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, will target minke. It will send a whaling vessel to join four other vessels from Miyagi, Chiba and Hokkaido prefectures on a roughly weeklong hunt.

Japan announced in December that it would leave the IWC, effective this June.

The vessels will start from the Port of Kushiro in Hokkaido or the Port of Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture.

The Wakayama vessel will then go on a solo hunt through late August off the coast of Chiba. In September, it will begin a two-month hunt with the other four near Hokkaido's Kushiro.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries allows hunting of three smaller species it says do not fall under the IWC's jurisdiction: the Baird's beaked whale, the short-finned pilot whale and the false killer whale. Minke whales are expected to join the list.

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