Japanese whaling ships have returned home from the Antarctic for the first time in nearly 30 years with no catch onboard, after a U.N. court ordered an end to their annual hunt.
The two ships, the 724-ton Yushin Maru and the 747-ton Yushin Maru No. 2, arrived Saturday at the port of Shimonoseki, a major whaling base in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
It was the first return by the fleet without catching any whales since 1987, when Japan began its annual “research” hunt in the Antarctic, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
The two ships did not face any attacks by anti-whaling activists on their voyage, the report added.
Tokyo had said this season’s excursion would not involve any lethal hunting. Harpoons normally used in the capture of whales were removed from the vessels.
Crew members on the two boats carried out “sighting surveys” and took skin samples from the huge marine mammals, news reports said.
The nonlethal research was introduced after the International Court of Justice, the highest court of the United Nations, ruled in March last year that Tokyo was abusing a scientific exemption set out in a 1986 moratorium on whaling. The court concluded Tokyo was carrying out a commercial hunt under a veneer of science.
After the ruling, Japan said it would not hunt in the Antarctic during this winter, but has since expressed its intention to resume research whaling in 2015 to 2016.