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Japan Whale Hunt to Kick Off in Pacific Despite Recent Court Ruling

Image: Japan Whale Hunt to Kick Off in Pacific Despite Recent Court Ruling Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru is anchored at a port as the vessel and other two whaling ships returned from the Antarctic Sea, in Shimonoseki, western Japan.

By Clyde Hughes   |   Friday, 18 Apr 2014 01:03 PM

Japan announced this week it will soon start a reduced whale hunt in the Pacific Ocean after shutting down its operations in Antarctica last month because of a ruling by the International Court of Justice.

The whale hunt announcement alarmed environmentalists who support the current worldwide ban on the practice, according to BBC News.

In March, the International Court of Justice concluded that Japan's whaling expedition near Antarctica was commercial and not scientific, and therefore not allowed. In that case, the country was accused of exploiting a loophole in a 1986 moratorium established by the International Whaling Commission.

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Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, told BBC News that the country would soon launch a reduced hunt, targeting 210 whales in the Pacific Ocean, only about half its current catch.

"Our basic policy lies with [continuing] research whaling," he said. "Research whaling is a means to seek a way out of the current situation of moratorium by collecting scientific data. So, we aim to resume commercial whaling at the earliest possible date, by conducting research whaling."

Reuters reported that Japan plans to depart fleets April 26, a day after President Barack Obama's visit to the country. Japan had originally planned to release fleets on April 22, the day before Obama arrived.

Junichi Sato, of Greenpeace Japan, told Reuters that the country's Pacific whaling plans come as a disappointment, especially on the heels of the ICJ ruling.

"This defiant announcement, mere days before President Obama's visit to Japan, will damage Japan's international standing," Sato said.

Reuters said that eating whale meat has long been a Japanese tradition but the high cost has made it harder to come by. Some believe that the Pacific whaling hunt might even be canceled because of the country's aging whale fleets and concerns that allies like the United States may complain.

Japanese fleets reportedly killed 319 whales in the Pacific during the 2012-2013 season, according to Reuters.

Under Japan's current whaling plan, fleets have agreed not to kill any sperm whales, and its quota limits on minkes have been reduced from 220 to 100, stated Reuters. BBC News said Japan started calling its whaling "scientific research" in 1987, a year after an international moratorium was placed on such hunting.

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