Japanese whale research vessels leave for Antarctic

Tokyo, Dec 1 (IANS) Japanese whale research vessels on Tuesday left for an expedition to the Antarctic Ocean under a revised government programme.

The Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru No.2 left the port in Shimonoseki city in Yamaguchi Prefecture, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The revised programme calls for hauling up only minke whales and reducing catches to 333, or one-third the previous number. The population of this species is large and Japan is aiming to commercialise minke whaling — hunting of whales primarily for meat, oil, blubber, and scientific research — in the future.

The government announced this plan last month after the International Court of Justice ordered Japan in March 2014 to halt its whaling activities.

They are expected to conduct their activities in the Antarctic Ocean from late December to March 2016.

Intense protests are expected from anti-whaling groups, as this will be the first time whales are caught by Japan since the International Court ruling.

However, activists have deemed the programme inhumane and unsustainable.

Australia and New Zealand have issued statements criticising Japan. Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has warned Japan of further obstruction.

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