TOKYO (AFP) - Japan will dispatch a "research" whaling mission to the Antarctic Ocean on Tuesday (Dec 1), the government said, defying international criticism and despite a United Nations legal decision that such activity disguises commercial hunts.
"The research ships will depart for new whale research in the Antarctic on Dec 1, 2015," the Fisheries Agency said on Monday (Nov 30) in a statement on its website.
The statement said the "research period" for the mission would be from late December to early March. It will include a "mother ship" as well as three other vessels. A total of 160 crew members will participate, the statement added.
Tokyo has for years come under intense global pressure to stop hunts that opponents decry as inhumane but that Japan says are an inherent part of its traditional culture.
The top UN legal body judged last year that Japan's so-called scientific whaling activity in the Southern Ocean was a front for commercial hunts.