Whale meat has been slowly put back on school lunch menus since around 2005, according to a recent survey released Saturday, as the meat is being made available at low prices in a bid to expand consumption.

Of about 29,600 public elementary and junior high schools nationwide offering lunches for students, 5,355 schools, or 18 percent, responded they had served whale meat in their lunches at least once in fiscal 2009 through March 2010, according to the survey conducted from June to August this year.

The Institute of Cetacean Research, which carries out the government's whaling, provided whale meat to local municipalities for school lunches at one-third of the market price, which was ¥2,060 per kg in 2009.

Japan, which aims to resume commercial whaling, is hoping to increase consumption of whale meat as meat stocks of whales captured by the institute have piled up to around 4,000 tons.