Japan's whale hunting fleet sets off amid outcry

A Japanese whaling ship leaving the port of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan, for the Antarctic. Japan maintains that research surveys are needed for information on how whales live.
A Japanese whaling ship leaving the port of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan, for the Antarctic. Japan maintains that research surveys are needed for information on how whales live.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SHIMONOSEKI (Japan) • Japan's whaling fleet defied global outrage yesterday when it set out for the Antarctic to resume a decades-old whale hunt. The hunt had been on a year's hiatus due to an international court ruling.

Japan aims to take more than 300 whales in its "scientific whaling" programme before the hunt ends in March next year.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled last year that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop and an International Whaling Commission panel said in April that Japan had yet to demonstrate a need for "lethal sampling".

But Tokyo, which had vowed from the start to resume its "scientific whaling" programme from the 2015-2016 season, retooled its hunt plan to cut the number of minke whales it intends to take to 333, down by two-thirds from previous hunts.

"Last year, regrettably, the ICJ made its ruling and we were unable to take whales," said Mr Tomoaki Nakao, mayor of the western city of Shimonoseki that is home to much of Japan's whaling fleet and part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's election district. There's nothing as happy as this day," Mr Nakao told the crews at a ceremony prior to their departure.

Japan, which has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its food culture, began what it calls "scientific whaling" in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Japan's whale hunting fleet sets off amid outcry'. Print Edition | Subscribe