Japan sets 6-month whaling quota at 227

Japan to commercially hunt 227 whales this year

Japanese whalers returned to port Monday with their first pick after resuming industrial whaling for the principle time in 31 years, reaching the prolonged-cherished device of traditionalists that is seen as largely a lost reason amid slowing seek information from of for the meat and altering views on conservation.

Critics say this was just a cover so Japan could hunt whales for food, as the meat from the whales killed for research usually did end up for sale.

The country has long said that only a few species of whales are endangered and industry supporters, as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have campaigned to resume whaling, Reuters reported.

Whaling ships depart from a port in Kushiro, Hokkaido Prefecture on 1 July 2019. They will be spending the summer hunting for minke, Baird's beaked whales and sei whales.

This year's quota for commercial whaling, including minkes, sei whales and Bryde's whales, is 227, the Fisheries Agency said.

It used to be the principle industrial hunt since 1988, when Japan switched to what it called evaluation whaling after industrial whaling used to be banned by the Worldwide Whaling Commission. During this week's G20 summit in Osaka, celebrities like Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and primatologist Jane Goodall all joined the appeal directed at G20 leaders to stop Japan from returning to commercial whaling.

Consumption of whale meat has declined dramatically in the last 30 years, prompting anti-whaling activists and animal rights campaigners to slam the decision to resume commercial whaling. This came after Tokyo's decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission last December.

"This means that Japan is now openly declaring their illegal whaling activities".

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Nevertheless, Japan continued its research, gathering data it believed would be useful for determining quotas when it reverted to commercial whaling at a future point. "If you force others not to eat what you do not eat yourself, that's cultural imperialism", Hideki Moronuki, senior fisheries negotiator at Japan's Fisheries Agency, told Al Jazeera. As whaling will be limited to the exclusive economic zone, Japan will no longer take about 330 Antarctic minke whales a year, as it has done recently.

While the resumption of commercial whaling is condemned by many conservation groups, others see it as a face-saving way to let the government's embattled and expensive whaling programme gradually succumb to changing times and tastes.

Whaling vessels were also leaving Monday morning from other ports including in Shimonoseki in western Japan.

"This is a sad day for whale protection globally", said Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International.

There is a fear from some conservation groups that other pro-whaling countries like Russian Federation might follow Japan's example and start commercial whaling again.

But a Japanese government official said "demand has been stable".

"What we're seeing is the origin of the close of Japanese whaling", acknowledged Patrick Ramage, director of the Worldwide Fund for Animal Welfare.

"There are countries that do not allow catching whales for consumption, but whale meat may be back on the dinner table once a food crisis occurs", the restaurant manager said.

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