Whale hunters set sail in secret to avoid G20 clash

A captured Minke whale is lifted by a crane into a truck bed at a port in Kushiro Hokkaido Prefecture

A captured Minke whale is lifted by a crane into a truck bed at a port in Kushiro Hokkaido Prefecture

"It was worth waiting for 31 years", Kai said with a smile.

Locals and elected officials in two of Japan's major whaling towns, Shimonoseki and Kushiro, celebrated the first commercial whaling ship of this new era leaving port.

"Japan has been whaling in their admire waters each year, despite the moratorium on whaling in 1986", Sea Shepherd, an worldwide non-earnings marine plants and fauna conservation organization, instructed NBC Info on Monday.

The creature was hosed down, then whalers in blue outfits, white boots and helmets, lined up to pour ceremonial cups of the Japanese liquor sake over the animal.

After commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1988, Japan switched to what it called 'research whaling.' However, the research whaling program has lost money, including $15 million in 2018 alone, according to the Associated Press.

The hunts come after Japan chose to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission, a move slammed by activists and anti-whaling countries but welcomed by Japanese whaling communities.

Whaling is a very small industry in Japan.

Whaling has proven to be a rare diplomatic flashpoint for Tokyo, which says the practice is a Japanese tradition that should not be subjected to global interference.

As an IWC member, Japan was banned from commercial hunts of large whales, though it could catch small varieties in waters near its coastline.

In the 2017-2018 whaling season, Japanese sailors killed 333 whales in Antarctic waters.

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With its withdrawal from the IWC, Tokyo will carry out whale hunting off Japan, but will end the most contentious hunts in the Antarctic.

This year's quota for commercial whaling, including minkes, sei whales and Bryde's whales, is 227, the Fisheries Agency said. On the present time Eastern whaling vessels enviornment cruise to hunt whales commercially for the first time in additional than three a long time.

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

Whaling is losing support in other whaling nations including Norway and Iceland, where whalers have cut back on catches in recent years amid criticism that commercial hunts are bad for their national image and tourism.

"The culture and way of life will be passed on to the next generation". "The world opposes killing whales, but you can say the same thing about numerous animals bred on land and killed for food".

Though a popular source of protein in the country's hard economic times in the aftermath of World War II, whale was gradually eclipsed in popularity by other meats after annual consumption peaked in the 1960s.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of", said Kai.

"It is totally false that commercial whaling will not be viable as demand is declining", he said.

"What we are seeing is the beginning of the end of Japanese whaling", said Patrick Ramage, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

While the resumption of commercial whaling was 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.

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