Japan’s whaling fleet has returned from its first hunt in two years with a haul of 333 Minke whales, including many pregnant females.
Japan states that it’s whale hunt is scientific research, which is exempt from a 1986 international ban on commercial whaling. Opponents of Japan’s Antarctic hunt say it’s a cover for commercial whaling, as most of the whale meat caught still ends up for sale in shops for human consumption.
Last year, Japan conducted non-lethal research, but it now says that killing the whales is essential to its ongoing work.
Over the next twelve years, Japan says it plans to catch almost 4,000 whales ‘as part of a research program’. The country insists that its ultimate aim is to resume full-scale commercial whaling.
The mammals were hunted in areas claimed by Australia, which has criticized the harvest, claiming that “lethal scientific research is not necessary.” The Australian government has described Japan’s decision to resume whaling over the southern hemisphere summer as “deeply disappointing” and says it has raised concerns at the highest level of the Japanese government.