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Japan kicks off first whale hunt since UN court ruling

Published on Apr 26, 2014 6:25 AM

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese whaling fleet is set to leave port on Saturday in the first hunt since the UN's top court last month ordered Tokyo to stop killing whales in the Antarctic.

The departure of ships from Ayukawa in the country's north-east marks the annual start to a coastal whaling programme not covered by the International Court of Justice's landmark ruling - which found Japan's Southern Ocean expedition was a commercial activity masquerading as scientific research.

But Tokyo's decision to continue whaling was likely to anger environmentalists who had hoped the ruling would bring an end to a slaughter that Japan has embraced as part of its cultural heritage.

Tokyo called off the 2014-15 season for its Antarctic hunt, and said it would redesign the controversial whaling mission in a bid to make it more scientific.

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