Japan bids to resume controversial whale hunts next year

PORTOROZ, Slovenia (AFP) - Japan said Wednesday it would file a plan by the end of the year for the resumption of its controversial Antarctic whaling programme, ruled invalid by the United Nation's highest court in March.

Tokyo's representative to the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) 65th meeting, Joji Morishita, said his country would be "open and transparent" in its bid, and file a new plan by late 2014.

The country's Antarctic hunt has dominated a disputed agenda for the commission's first meeting since the International Court of Justice found in March that Japan abused a scientific exemption to a commercial whaling ban to hunt the cetaceans for their meat.

Japan cancelled its 2014-15 Antarctic hunt after the ruling, but has said it intends to resume "research whaling" in 2015-16. It killed more than 250 minke whales in the Antarctic in the 2013-14 season and 103 the previous year. It also conducts hunts in the name of science in the Northwest Pacific, where it killed 132 whales in 2013, and off the Japanese coast, where it caught 92.

Morishita insisted Japan would abide by the ICJ ruling which "imposed a number of conditions on the use of lethal research methods".

These included "whether the design and implementation of any research programme is reasonable... the scale of a programme's use of lethal sampling, the methodology used, target sample sizes and actual takes, the research programme's time frames and scientific output", he told the conference.

In the meantime, Japan "will go to Antarctica this season to conduct its programme with non-lethal means", said delegation spokesman Glenn Inwood.