The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established in 1948 to address this problem. It is an international body dedicated to conserving and promoting the sustainable use of whales, and to repopulate areas that have seen depleting numbers. It also coordinates and funds whale research.
In 1982, the IWC issued a moratorium on the commercial hunting of whales, when concerns were raised about the drastic decline in whale populations. Japan, who had been a member of the IWC since 1951, strongly opposed the move. But Japan was not alone—Norway also opposed the moratorium.
A clause was then added to the ban in 1986, which allowed Japan to hunt a number of whales for ‘scientific research’. This number is not decided by the IWC. Instead, autonomy is given to the individual governments to set and regulate these limits. Although Japan claimed their whaling activities were for scientific purposes only, the meat was still found to be consumed commercially. Further heat came from the global community when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Japan to halt all whaling operations in 2014. The country rejected the jurisdiction of the ICJ and claimed that the United Nations World Court does not have authority over global oceans and their resources.
Japan has been trying to overturn the IWC's ban on commercial whaling since the moratorium was passed. After yet another unsuccessful bid to change the IWC's stand on commercial whaling in December 2018, Japan finally decided to leave the IWC in June 2019. On 1 July 2019, Japan resumed commercial whaling after a 30-year hiatus. Five whaling boats departing from Kushiro, Hokkaido, and returned in the afternoon with two minke whales.