Japanese whaling fleet sets off for northwestern Pacific


Japan resumed what it calls research whaling in the northwestern Pacific on Thursday as whaling vessels departed a port in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The mission is set to last until late July. Under the annual program, the Fisheries Agency will catch up to 90 sei whales and 25 Bryde’s whales, the same level as last year.

The whaling is aimed at contributing to resource management by studying such things as stomach contents so that the country can eventually resume commercial whaling. The activities are commissioned by the Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research.

Two whaling vessels left the port in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Thursday morning. The 8,145-ton Nisshin Maru, the mother ship of the whaling fleet, is slated to set off from a port in neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture on Friday.

In March 2014, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to suspend its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean, saying it violated the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

In response to the ruling, Japan reduced the number of whale catches in the Antarctic Ocean and is also planning to review its practice in the northwestern Pacific by compiling a new plan in November or thereabouts.

The program of research whaling has been a target of international criticism as meat from the hunted animals is placed on the market after scientific examinations are completed. Critics call the science a cover for commercial whaling.