Japan has confirmed its quitting the International Whaling Commission and will resume commercial whale hunting.
The decision's been criticised by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, who says he's disappointed by the decision and the practice is "outdated and unnecessary".
"While we seriously welcome the announcement that Japan will cease whaling in the Southern Ocean, we are disappointed it is leaving the commission with an intention to resume commercial whaling within Japan's own exclusive economic zone," Mr Peters said on Wednesday.
"Japan is a valued supporter of the international rules-based system and we had hoped Japan would choose to stay in the commission.
"Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice. We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling in order to advance the protection of the ocean's ecosystems," Mr Peters said.
The commission imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in the early 80's after a drop in whale numbers.
But Japan 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 program 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 per cent of all Japanese meat consumption, according to the Asahi newspaper.
Japanese media said the country 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 organisations" 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.
When whaling resumes it will be limited to Japan's own territorial waters and no whaling will take place in the South Pacific.
Reuters / Newshub.