The Fisheries Ministry defended its “research” whaling in an annual report released Tuesday, countering criticism from the United States and other antiwhaling countries.

The fiscal 2000 report on fisheries, which was endorsed at a Cabinet meeting, claims research hunting last year in the Northwest Pacific helped confirm that minke, Bryde’s and sperm whales are consuming large amounts of Alaskan pollack and squid, indicating ample stocks of the three species.

Japan wants to resume commercial whaling under the rationale that whale stocks have recovered to the extent they are impacting on fish resources, which they reckon is a major factor behind diminishing supplies.

Japan estimates the annual global yield of fisheries at 90 million tons and claims whales consume an estimated 440 million tons of marine resources.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986 in compliance with an international moratorium. In 1987, however, it turned to “research” whaling under International Whaling Commission rules.

Many countries have been urging Tokyo to stop the practice, which critics say is a cover for commercial whaling as whales caught are sold on the domestic market.

Tokyo’s decision last year to expand whale hunting to include sperm and Bryde’s whales — species protected under U.S. law — prompted condemnation from the U.S. and led Washington to place the Japanese whaling program under surveillance with possible punitive actions.

The report also calls for drastic reform of Japan’s fisheries policy to secure resources and adjust to changing consumer needs. It cites the gap between reality and the goal of the nearly 40-year-old policy of focusing on coastal fishing to improve the income of fisheries households.

Warning that fisheries resources could run out, the report says instituting an administrative system is necessary to control catches and ensure the sustainable use of resources.

In meeting consumer needs, the fisheries industry must change to serve as a food supplier by integrating all of its functions, from processing to distribution, the report says.

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