Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday in a statement that the withdrawal would go into effect June 30, 2019, with whaling resuming within its waters and its exclusive economic zone thereafter in July, according to Reuters. Reports indicate that Japan will also withdraw from whaling in the Antarctic, which would be a welcome and long overdue end to Southern Ocean whaling, but reports also suggest Japan would start commercial whaling in their own waters.
"As a result of modern fleet technology, over-fishing in both Japanese coastal waters and high seas areas has led to the depletion of many whale species", Annesley said.
Japan's Fisheries Agency has defended its troubling interpretation of the worldwide whaling moratorium by claiming that the goal of its so-called research was "to carry out a detailed calculation of the catch limit of minke whales and study the structure and dynamics of the ecological system in the Antarctic Ocean".
Iceland and Norway object to the moratorium and continue to hunt whales commercially without relying on science as an excuse.
The resumption of commercial whaling is an unusual decision for Japan, which stresses multilateralism in its diplomacy, and it sparked swift criticism from environmental groups and others who believe all whales should be protected.
"Today's Declaration does not correspond to the steps of the worldwide community, not to mention the protection necessary to preserve the future of our oceans and these magnificent creatures", said Sam Annesley, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan.
However, the move of Japan has drawn worldwide criticism citing the decision to overlap the 1986 global ban on commercial whaling.
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Hopefully it will not be "Japan" that resumes whaling as a nationalised industry financed by taxes, as the "scientific research" is, but private companies that will not be able to turn a profit and will eventually sink beneath the waves. "It has consistently failed but instead of accepting that most nations no longer want to hunt whales, it has now simply walked out".
But consumption has declined significantly in recent decades, with much of the population saying they rarely or never eat whale meat.
In October, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species also struck a blow against Japan's whaling industry, when it ruled that Japan had broken its rules by taking sei whale meat from global waters - again under the guise of research - and selling it commercially inside Japan. Commercial whaling will resume in July, Suga said. Japan said they're turning their back on the IWC.
Whale meat was once popular in Japan but is far less so now. As the Japanese news media reported last week that a withdrawal from the whaling commission was being considered, Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd's founder, said in a statement that he considered it good news. "Their decision to withdraw is regrettable and Australia urges Japan to return to the Convention and Commission as a matter of priority".
"I have attended IWC meetings several times in the past, and I was struck by their extremely biased views", he said. Japanese people ate more than 233,000 tons of whale meat per year in 1962, but just 3,000 tons in 2016, according to government data. "What's most important is to have a diverse and stable food supply", he said.
Japan suspended its hunt for one season to re-tool its whaling program with measures such as cutting the number of whales and species targeted, but resumed hunting in the 2015-2016 season, capping its Antarctic catch with a quota of 333 whales annually.