Japan has not “resumed” commercial whale hunting
On the 1st of July, you may have come across headlines stating that Japan has resumed commercial whale hunting after 31 years. However, Japan’s decision to withdraw from the International Whale Commission (IWC) does not really change anything. On some level, it is even a good news.
Japan never really stopped commercial whaling
Japan joined the IWC in 1951, an international organisation which regulates whale hunting and works on whale conservation. In 1982, a moratorium on commercial whaling is declared. Japan accepted it five years later. Nonetheless, in the same time, the country engaged in a scientific research program allowing it to continue whale hunting. Under this alibi, Japan actually kept on hunting whales for commercial purposes.
A blessing in disguise ?
Japan’s withdrawal from the IWC and the official « resume » of commercial whaling does not have only downsides. A previous statement by the well-known NGO Sea Shepherd explains the expected benefits of this decision.
First of all, Japan opposed the IWC’s motion to create a whale sanctuary in southern Atlantic – putting an end to whale hunting in the Southern Hemisphere. Now that the country is out of the Commission, the other pro-whaling members will not have enough weight to block the project.
“We are delighted to see the end of whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We are delighted that we will soon have a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary and we look forward to continuing to oppose the three remaining pirate whaling nations of Norway, Japan and Iceland. Whaling as a ‘legal’ industry has ended. All that remains is to mop up the pirates.” 
Captain Paul Watson
Second of all, Japan can no longer pursue its « scientific research program » (as it was part of an IWC decision) which allowed the country to hunt whales in the North Pacific and Antarctica. From now on, they can only hunt in their own waters. On top of that, a more restricted quota applies.
But hunting is not the main threat to whales : the first causes of whale mortality remain fishing and plastic pollution.