Whales taken for research, according to Japanese agency.
The whaling fleet from Japan returned to port from Antarctic waters with an amazing 333 whales killed on the mission, including some pregnant females, according to a story on Reuters.
The fleet set sail in December of last year amid international criticism, including from the United States, one of Japan’s important allies. In 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan should stop its whaling in the Southern Ocean, and the country halted the venture at that point, but said it planned to resume whaling in the future.
The last of the four-vessel fleet reached Shimonoseki in southwestern Japan on Thursday, according to the Fisheries Agency, with its tally of 333 minke whales, of which 103 were males and 230 females. The agency said in a statement 90 percent of the females killed were pregnant. This year’s catch is about a third of the country’s previous catches, and the agency said the killing of the whales is vital to its research programs.
The statement continued, “The number of pregnant females is consistent with previous hunts, indicating that the breeding situation of minke whales in the Antarctic is healthy.”
Eating whale meat is part of the Japanese culture, but it seems most Japanese no longer prefer the delicacy. While contending that not all whale species are endangered, the Japanese began what they call “scientific whaling” in 1987, one year after an international whaling moratorium was put into effect. The nation has plans to harvest almost 4,000 whales over the next 12 years, as a part of its research program, but they also plan to resume commercial whaling at some point ultimately.
The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in the 1980s, but left a loophole for scientific research missions. Opponents of the Japanese whaling argue the country is using this exemption as a disguise for continuing commercial whaling, citing that a large part of the killed whales are sold for consumption.
Australia and New Zealand say they are considering legal action against the whaling fleet, and the possibility of patrolling the Antarctic waters.