Domestic politics were also a factor.
Small as the whaling business may be, both Abe and powerful LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai have the industry in their constituencies. “Nikai was constantly pressing the Foreign Ministry and the Fisheries Agency [to enable commercial whaling],” said a source in Nagatacho.
Abe appears to have full confidence in Nikai, having appointed him secretary-general for an unusual third term. And with an upper house election scheduled for July — with the possibility of a simultaneous lower house election — this might be the last time two leaders capable of making the decision are in power at the same time.
A Minke whale caught on a research voyage is brought into port in Kushiro, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. – Một con cá voi Minke bị bắt trong chuyến nghiên cứu được đưa vào cảng ở Kushiro, trên đảo Hokkaido phía bắc của Nhật Bản.
Even after they are freed from IWC constraints, Japanese whalers will still have to abide by certain rules. The Fisheries Agency on Feb. 1 presented draft guidelines to an LDP special committee, identifying the locations and types of whales they will be allowed to catch from July.
A quota will be calculated each year, in line with a standard set by the IWC to conserve whales for a century, the draft said.
Kai, of the fisheries association in Taiji, welcomed the policy shift. “Now we can provide more delicious fresh whale,” he said, since fishermen will be able to chase better whales in different areas. The hope is that this will make the meat more appealing to consumers.
While scientific whaling is state funded, Kai added, fishermen hope to eventually turn a profit without subsidies.
It is not clear whether the agency’s commercial plan will lead to an increase or decrease in the actual number of whales caught, compared with the research hunts. Another question is what diplomatic price — if any — Japan will pay over the long term.
The outcry from activists aside, international criticism of the IWC withdrawal has been relatively mild so far.
The U.K. is a fierce opponent of whaling, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove tweeted in December that he was “extremely disappointed” with Japan’s decision. But in January, when Abe visited London, Prime Minister Theresa May did not raise the issue.
When Abe misunderstood a reporter’s question, thinking it pertained to Sea Shepherd, May cut in to rescue him. “No,” she said, “no need to respond.”
Though the backlash has been limited so far, experts warn Japan’s decision on whaling could have unexpected consequences. – Mặc dù các phản ứng dữ dội đã bị hạn chế cho đến nay, các chuyên gia cảnh báo quyết định của Nhật Bản về đánh bắt cá voi có thể có những hậu quả không mong đợi.
Tokyo seems to have correctly calculated that the backlash would not cause significant harm. But the tide could change, experts warn.
Japan’s decision could take a toll on international negotiations “in unexpected ways,” said Kobe University political science professor Tosh Minohara. “Japan will be in a weaker position to urge other countries to comply with international frameworks.”
It could even have a negative impact on the fishing industry — the Fisheries Agency’s priority. Japan has been calling for international regulations on catching Pacific saury, to prevent overfishing by other countries such as China. “Not complying with the international framework for whaling could weaken Japan’s standing,” said Waseda University researcher Yasuhiro Sanada.
The owner of a Taiji food processing company that handles whale and tuna said he is unsure what the future holds. “All we can say is we will follow whatever the government decides.”
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