The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission began today in Japan, with the host nation calling for an end to a 16-year ban on commercial whaling. Japanese Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Tsutomu Takebe urged IWC member nations to regard whales “in the same light as other living marine resources”– that is, edible. Japan argues that whale populations have grown substantially since the ban was imposed, making its continued existence unnecessary. The nation already kills whales for research purposes (which is allowed by the IWC), but critics say the research expeditions are thinly disguised hunts to stock pricey Tokyo restaurants with whale meat. Three-quarters of the 48 IWC member nations would have to vote in favor of lifting the ban for it to be repealed, but as yet, it’s not clear if a vote on the topic will even take place this year.