Japan on Wednesday announced its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission to pursue commercial whaling in its waters from July 2019, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Japan is expected to officially inform the commission of its decision by the end of the year.

Whales will not be hunted in the Antarctic Ocean or the Southern Hemisphere, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. “The purpose of the orderly development of the whaling industry, as stated in the [IWC] convention, was not reflected [in the commission], and it became apparent that there is no possibility for differing opinions and positions regarding whales to coexist,” he added. “As a result, [the government] came to this decision.”

Suga said the country would continue to cooperate “in the international management of marine biological resources” and “contribute to management of whale stocks based on scientific knowledge, and work with international institutions”. Tokyo will continue to remain an observer state in the commission.

Japan, known for its controversial whale expeditions, said its hunts will abide by international laws and a quota calculated under a method adopted by the International Whaling Commission, The Asahi Shimbun reported. The decision was prompted by a vote in September in which 41 member countries of the whaling commission opposed Tokyo’s proposal to lift a moratorium on commercial whaling, while 27 members supported it. Two countries abstained.

The international moratorium on whaling has been in place since 1986, but Japan had continued the practice on the premise that it was conducting research towards its goal of resuming commercial whaling. The country has maintained for decades that the animal is not endangered and that eating whale is part of Japanese culture. Even though whale meat is still sold in Japan, much of it is no longer consumed.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Environment Minister Melissa Price said the government was “extremely disappointed” and urged Japan to change course, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. “Australia remains resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” they added. “We will continue to work within the commission to uphold the global moratorium on commercial whaling.”