• Kyodo

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Two Japanese ships that returned recently from a research whaling mission in the Antarctic Ocean were opened to the public Saturday at the port of Nagasaki.

The 7,575-ton Nisshin Maru, the lead ship of the fleet, and the 720-ton Yushin Maru, an observation vessel, will also be open Sunday.

The open-days are part of the Nagasaki whale festival, organized by the Institute of Cetacean Research, a Tokyo-based organization that leads Japan’s research whaling operations.

Devices to locate whales and panels of photographs showing research whaling are on display aboard the Nisshin Maru. Visitors can also look at a block of ice from the Antarctic Ocean.

People queued at a booth selling whale meat and providing free whale meat dishes.

“I used to eat whale meat a lot but I hardly have the chance to eat it now. I want the international community to recognize Japanese food culture,” said Makoto Kondo, 73. who came to the event to try some whale meat.

The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission and related events will start Friday in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

“The display prior to the Shimonoseki meeting is meaningful to learn the deep correlation between Japan and whales,” said Nagasaki Gov. Genjiro Kaneko in his opening address.

Five whaling ships returned to Japan on April 4 from the Antarctic Ocean after catching 440 minke whales.

Japan gave up commercial whaling in 1986, in compliance with an international moratorium, and turned to so-called research whaling the following year.

Japan cites the need to assess the effects of the consumption of fish by whales on marine resources as one of the reasons for conducting research whaling.

Conservationists say Japan’s research whaling is a cover for commercial whaling, pointing out that the whale meat is later sold for consumption in Japan.

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