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Fisheries

Japan to resume commercial whaling after three-decade hiatus

Fleets will target minke whales when hunts begin Monday

A minke whale is unloaded in Hokkaido on June 1, after being caught in the last round of Japan's research whaling.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japan will resume commercial whaling for the first time in 31 years Monday, a day after it left the International Whaling Commission, the intergovernmental body that regulates whale hunting.

Japanese fleets will begin by targeting minke whales in territorial waters and the country's exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from Japan's coast. It remains to be seen whether hunters can grow the market for whale meat at home.

Whaling ships are scheduled to leave Monday from ports in Shimonoseki in the country's west and Kushiro in the north. 

While the country halted commercial whaling in 1988, it has continued to conduct hunts for research purposes. Critics have alleged this program served little scientific purpose. The research hunts will end as the country resumes commercial whaling.

Tokyo fell out with the whaling commission after a meeting in September, where a Japanese proposal for a partial resumption of commercial whaling was voted down 41-27 amid opposition from anti-whaling countries such as Australia.

Frustrated by an inability to win over other IWC members, the Japanese government announced in December that it would withdraw from the organization. The exit became effective Sunday.

Private companies will develop offshore whaling operations from points around Japan. Along with minkes, whalers will hunt Bryde's whales and sei whales.

The Fisheries Agency will set annual caps for different areas of the sea and types of whales using the same calculation methods employed by the whaling commission.

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