The government has decided to increase the number of whales it will hunt for research in the northern Pacific Ocean this year to 380 from 260, sources said Monday.

Together with its hunting permit of 400 in the Antarctic Ocean, the rise in the North Pacific will make Japan the world’s largest whaling nation. Norway will move to second place, hunting 670 whales for commercial purposes.

Officials said they need more sample whales for research, a move that will likely stir criticism from antiwhaling nations at the ongoing annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Sorrento, Italy.

According to the document Tokyo submitted to the IWC, Japan plans to hunt 120 minke whales along the Japanese coastline, up from 50. It will also catch 100 sei whales, double the current level.

Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a 1986 IWC moratorium and began hunting whales from the following year for research purposes.

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