Japan Sets Course For Antarctic – Fleet Intends To Kill 333 Minke Whales For ‘Research’

Japan’s whaling fleet has set course for the Antarctic Ocean. The expedition intends to kill more than 300 minke whales for “research”.

Despite international protests and efforts from conservation groups like Sea Shepherd, Japan’s whaling fleet will leave today for the Antarctic. The fleet is on a three-month hunt and plans to kill about 333 whales. Opponents have been claiming that Japan has yet to prove that the killing of the whales has a purely scientific agenda.

After a mere one-year pause, a Japanese whaling fleet set sail for the Antarctic on Tuesday. Many government officials and families of crew members stood on the quayside and waved at the ships. The hunting vessels, boldly marked “Research,” left a southern port of Japan and will be gone for about three months, said an official from the Fisheries Agency,

“Two whaling ships departed from Shimonoseki with a Fisheries Agency patrol boat this morning, while the factory ship also left another port to form a fleet. A fourth whaler already left a northeastern port yesterday to join the fleet.”

Traditionally, such whaling vessels have butchered about 1,000 minke whales each whaling season. But as per Japan’s own admission to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), this time around the expedition won’t kill more than 333 minke whales.

Japan Sets Course For Antarctic - Fleet Intends To Kill 333 Minke Whales For 'Research'

Earlier this year, IWC had clearly stated that that it was not convinced that whales needed to be killed for research on whale stock management and conservation, reported ABC News. However, Japan insists that the killing, termed as “lethal sampling” is critical to obtain data on the maturing ages of whales.

Interestingly, Japan has always claimed that, though there is insufficient data about the population size of the minke whales, it is “clearly in the hundreds of thousands,” reported The Inquisitr. Hence the country justifies the whaling expedition, claiming it will prove the whale population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.

Apparently, the country needs to kill the whales to carry out its research. Moreover, it is no secret that the whale carcass is quickly processed into food, ends up being sold in shops and restaurants, and is even served up in school lunches, reported Yahoo.

Besides international criticism, the country is clearly defying a UN legal ruling that the “research” expedition is a thinly disguised commercial hunt and is intended to stock-up on whale meat, a rare and expensive delicacy in Japan. Incidentally, this will be the first year since United Nations’ top legal body; the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled last year that the hunts, which were labeled as “scientific research,” were nothing but a thin veil of deception to conceal the real intention.

Despite acknowledging the ruling, Japan sent out fleets last year, but they returned empty-handed. Japan claims the research expedition was completely “non-lethal” and that researchers merely conducted population analysis and collected skin samples.

For decades, Japan has been routinely criticized and urged to stop whaling. While commercial whale hunting has been banned, Japan has skirted the rules by labeling the hunts as research. There has been a worldwide moratorium and opposition from usually-friendly nations like Australia and New Zealand, reported Phys.org.

Japan Sets Course For Antarctic - Fleet Intends To Kill 333 Minke Whales For 'Research'

Environmental activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has always fought Japan over the hunting of whales in the Antarctic, has urged the Australian government, to step in with some diplomatic tactic to stop the barbaric practice. While it was Australia which had brought the case against Japan in ICJ, the country indicated it might send a boat that will follow the Japanese fleet. If that fails to deter them, the country might send a Customs and Border Protection Service patrol boat.

Though prices of whale meat continue to remain high, the demand has been gradually declining, primarily due to increased awareness and efforts from groups like Sea Shepherd. However, Japan’s insistence on sending a fleet to the Antarctic is a clear indicator that the country is not willing to give up the practice.

[Photo by Eliza Muirhead / Getty Images, Glenn Lockitch, Sankei/Getty Images, Sam Sielen / Getty Images]