Minke whaling begins in Japanese coastal waters


Four whaling ships left a northeastern port Friday to hunt up to 51 minke whales in coastal waters in the period up to May 26 as part of the government’s scientific research whaling in the northwestern Pacific.

The Association for Community-based Whaling, a nonprofit set up for coastal research whaling, plans the hunt within an 80-km radius from Ayukawa port in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. Researchers will assess the animals’ impact on marine resources by examining factors such as the contents of their stomachs.

In March last year, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean violated the International Convention of the Regulation of Whaling and ordered it to halt research whaling in the Antarctic.

In response, Japan reviewed parts of its research whaling program in the Northwestern Pacific and scaled down operations last year.

The nation’s research whaling has been a target of international criticism as meat from the hunted animals is placed on the market after scientific examination has been completed. Critics call it a cover for commercial whaling.

Coastal research whaling is conducted off the port in Ishinomaki in the spring and off Kushiro, Hokkaido, in the fall.