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Japan 'Going Rogue' on Whaling, With Fears Of Mass Slaughter

Japan may be about to dramatically increase its whaling practices as it pulled out of a global whaling agreement on Wednesday.

The move will see Japan return to commercial whaling in what could be a crushing blow to whale conservationists.

The move comes 40 years after whaling was abolished in Australia.

"Japan is going rogue basically, they're withdrawing from an international body which regulates whaling, and they're saying they're returning to commercial whaling," Adam Burling, of the Sea Shepard, told ten daily.

"That in itself is an unprecedented step."

Earlier this year, according to the World Wildlife Fund, Japanese whalers killed 50 Minke whales off Antarctica, in the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, meant to be a safe haven for the animals.

A harpoon is fired at a fleeing whale. (Image AAP)

Japan has promised to stay within its own economic exclusion zone, but with no constraints in place from the IWC, a number of conservationists are concerned for the long term whale population.

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"As to speculation that Tokyo's announcement means Japan concentrating on killing northern Pacific whales, this is a pointless barbaric practice which is offensive to people around the world no matter where the Japanese fleet goes," said environmentalist Bob Brown.

Despite conservation efforts, over 31,000 whales have been slaughtered since the practice of commercial whaling was outlawed in 1986, according to the WWF.

A dead whale is winched out of a whaling vessel (Image AAP)

“We could see the collapse of the IWC. This is overturning decades of conservation work to try and protect whales,” said Burling.

If the IWC collapses, Burling feared it could be tantamount to bringing back the dark days of free whaling when millions of whales were killed.

“Whales face a greater number of threats today that at any stage in their past... Our whales need countries to work together not go it alone," said Australian Marine Conservation (AMCS) CEO Darren Kindleysides.

Feature Image: AAP

Contact the author: mgay@networkten.com.au