Tokyo, Nov 12 (IANS) A Japanese whaling expedition on Monday left for the Antarctic Ocean to begin its hunting season despite international opposition.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Japanese fleet aims to catch 333 minke whales near Antarctica in the fourth whaling expedition since its temporary suspension in 2014 following an International Court of Justice ruling, reports Efe news.
The Japanese government argues that its “scientific research” whaling campaigns are aimed at supporting the management and conservation of maritime resources through the analysis of the contents of the whales’ stomachs, with the results being submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
However, in 2014 the ICJ declared Japanese whaling in the Antarctic illegal because it did not comply with those aims and ordered its suspension, after which Japan decided to resume its campaigns, although limiting its catches to one third of the usual amount.
The IWC also opposed a new whaling target proposed by the Japanese authorities in its Brazil meeting in September, with Tokyo responding by threatening to withdraw from the commission.
Until the ICJ ban, Japanese whaling expeditions were capturing 850 minke whales, a species which Japan says is relatively abundant, as well as 50 humpback whales and 50 fin whales.
Apart from its catches in the Antarctic, Japan also hunts whales in the North Pacific, also supposedly for scientific purposes.
These activities have been criticised by the international community and animal rights groups, which allege that they are a cover for commercial whaling as the meat of the studied animals is later sold.