TOKYO: Japan on Wednesday will announce its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in a bid to resume commercial whaling, Japanese media said.
The Sankei newspaper said the decision was made at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday after the government decided it would be difficult to resume commercial whaling while a member of the international body.
The IWC in September again rejected Tokyo's request to resume commercial whaling.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday declined comment on the expected decision.
Japan has defied international protests to conduct what it calls scientific research whaling, having repeatedly said its ultimate goal is to whale commercially again.
In 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan should halt Antarctic whaling.
Japan suspended its hunt for one season to re-tool its whaling programme with measures such as cutting the number of whales and species targeted, but resumed hunting in the 2015-2016 season. It caps its Antarctic catch with a quota of 333 whales annually.
Japan has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture. It began scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium began.
The meat ends up on store shelves, even though most Japanese no longer eat it. Whale consumption accounted for 0.1 percent of all Japanese meat consumption, according to the Asahi newspaper.
Japanese media said that Japan could no longer take advantage of the IWC exemption for scientific whaling if it withdrew from the group because the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas requires its signatories, including Japan, to work through "the appropriate international organizations" for marine mammal conservation.
Japan has also continued to hunt smaller species of whales that are not covered by the IWC in its coastal waters.
(reporting by Linda Sieg and Kaori Kaneko; editing by Darren Schuettler)