Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 09:46 AM EDT

Japan Whaling Back In Business

Jul 11, 2019 10:54 AM EDT

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JAPAN -- For the first time in a long while, Japanese fishermen have left the dock in search of whales at sea. Japan had signed an agreement thirty years ago to become a participant to the International Whaling Commission that seeks to put a stop to the catching and killing of whales. Most of the whales that included in the list of species that were not allowed to be caught at sea have been considered endangered from extinction. Until recently, the country had a rather controversial decision to remove their support and participation in the rules set by the International Whaling Commission. 


Five vessels have set sail and left the Kushiro port, North of Japan on Monday. At around the same time, three whaling boats have been spotted to leave Shimonoseki port in the SouthWest Area of Japan. A few hours after, the first whales have been caught and were brought to shore -- two minke whales, gray. 


One of the animals was more than 8 meters ling was moved from the ship onto a truck that brought it to a warehouse where its meat will be processed. The fishermen were lined up with their cup of sake for the ceremonial pouring of it on the whale as a sign of a good catch. 


"Today marks a good day," said  Yoshifumi Kai, head of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association. "We've been waiting for this opportunity for 31 years and finally it is here. It was worth the wait."


According to the fisheries agency, the five Kushiro vessels that have sailed off are out to kill 227 whales throughout the course until December of this year. They have delayed the announcement of such a number until the meeting of the G20 countries in Osaka has ended. The quota is to catch 52 minke whales, 25 sei whales and 150 Bryde's, the agency revealed. 


The hunts are likely to gain more attention from environmentalists and conservationists, but Japan's whaling officials were in a rather celebratory mood. 


"This is a small industry and I am proud to be hunting whales," said Kai, an official of Senior Fisheries. "In my hometown, people have been hunting for 400 years."


Late last year, Japan has announced its desire to leave the IWC because it felt frustrated when the other member countries did not show their support to the proposed sustainable practices in whaling. 


"I'm a bit nervous but I'm happy that we can go whaling again," said Hideki Abe, a whaler from Ishinomaki and he is only 23. "I want more people to taste whale meat at least once in their life."

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