Japan is set to propose resuming commercial whaling of some species at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in September as a ruling party endorsed the government plan on Tuesday.
Tokyo is targeting certain types of whales whose numbers are relatively abundant such as minke whales for the proposal, but it remains uncertain whether it can secure support from members of the IWC that are split over whaling.
Tuesday's approval by the Liberal Democratic Party came amid emerging calls from some government officials and ruling party lawmakers that Japan should weigh withdrawal from the IWC.
Their criticism is directed at the divisive and what they see as dysfunctional nature of the international body, with one ruling party source saying, "We are not going to drag this out."
At the meeting from Sept. 10 to 14 in Brazil, to be chaired by Japanese government representative Joji Morishita, Japan plans to make a packaged proposal that also calls for easing of the IWC's decision-making rules, a plan seen as a tactic to court anti-whaling members.
Currently, approval from a majority of three-fourths of IWC members is needed to set a catch quota or a sanctuary where whaling is banned. The Japanese proposal is to lower the hurdle to a simple majority.
The potential easing of the rules will make it easier for anti-whaling members to secure support for designating a new whale sanctuary.
Of the IWC's 88 members, 40 support whaling while the remaining 48 are against the practice, according to Japan's Fisheries Agency.
The IWC, which aims to manage whaling and conserve whales, was established in 1948. In 1982, it declared there should be a moratorium on commercial whaling and the ban came into force in 1986.
Japan stopped commercial whaling across the board in fiscal 1988. But it continues to hunt whales for "research purposes," drawing criticism overseas that the practice is a cover for commercial whaling.