Japan to withdraw from International Whaling Commission

Japan confirmed on Wednesday that it will quit the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling next year.

It reverses decades of policy as the commission issued an international suspension of commercial hunting in 1986 but Japan has since been whale hunting in the name of scientific research, with much of the meat also ending up on store shelves.

The decision to restart commercial whaling has sparked international criticism. Australia says it's "extremely disappointed" at the announcement while New Zealand has called the killing of the ocean mammals "outdated and unnecessary".

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga says the withdrawal will come into effect at the end of June 2019, and that commercial whaling will be confined to Japanese waters and its economic zone, in accordance with international law.

The move comes just months after the commission once again refused to allow Japan to hunt whales commercially.

Influential lawmakers in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party have long lobbied for a resumption of commercial whaling, and the PM's own district includes a whaling port in Western Japan.

Tokyo maintains most whale species are not endangered, and eating whale meat is part of its culture.